“Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe.
If you believe, clap your hands….
Every time a child says, ‘I don’t believe in fairies,’
there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead. ”
— James M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
Eleanor did not believe in fairies, but she was careful never to say so, just in case. She could never be sure. Occasionally, if she clapped her hands in the garden among the long purple blooms of the butterfly bushes, it was her secret.
Eleanor was named for the former first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. July Fourth had arrived, and she was very excited. She had been studying the Revolutionary War in school. She wished she was finally old enough to stay up and watch the fireworks. Since her mother was refusing to let her, to console herself, she read her favorite biography on Eleanor Roosevelt again. She asked her mother to read more about her on the internet, and surprise of surprises! Eleanor Roosevelt had commented on fairy godmothers.
“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt
If Eleanor Roosevelt could believe in fairy godmothers, so could she! “Mom, did you ask my fairy godmother for a useful gift for me?” Eleanor asked.
“Don’t be silly, Eleanor. She says ‘if a mother could ask.’ That means that mothers cannot.” Eleanor’s mother, Louise, was very short with her.
“Oh.” Eleanor was disappointed. She had really hoped that she had a useful gift. Perhaps she could ask her fairy godmother for a wish.
“Mom, if you could have asked, what would you have asked for?” Eleanor did not think her mother would pick something as ordinary as beauty for a daughter named for a former first lady.
“Curiosity is certainly a good thing to have.” Louise said to her daughter, smiling. “Why don’t you go out looking for ladybugs and butterflies? You haven’t seen a swallowtail yet this year.”
Eleanor went into the garden through the screened porch, hearing the bang, bang of the screened door behind her. The butterfly bushes towered over her head. A bluejay was bathing in the birdbath, and a robin redbreast was pecking for worms. The neighbor’s cat paused in his stalking of the bluejay to look at her over his shoulder.
“Hello, Pumpkin Whiskers!” Eleanor called to the large orange feline. He wiggled his nose, and looked past the box hedge toward where roses rioted over an arbor.
He looked back at her and winked one eye. Then, he moved a few more slow steps toward the birdbath, but the bluejay slapped water at him and flew away. The orange cat heaved a sigh and slunk away under the twining honeysuckle.
Eleanor walked through the box hedge, wondering about the cat’s wink. Had she really seen him wink? Was he signaling her something about the rose arbor? Eleanor settled down under the arbor, relaxing in the cool shade. A ladybug landed on her hand.
“Hello, Ladybug. Do you know my fairy godmother?” A swallowtail butterfly landed on her other hand. Eleanor gasped, a ladybug landing on her hand was wonderful but a ladybug and a butterfly at the same time? A sense of wonder and magic dawned in her like a sunrise. The ladybug lifted her red shell high, and flapped tiny transparent wings, flying off to the shade under a Japanese Maple. The swallowtail butterfly slowly flapped its wings and also flew under the same maple tree, landing on a hosta leaf next to the ladybug. Eleanor followed them. She settled down on the grass.
“I heard you asking for me, dearie.” The soft voice came from a tiny woman, no bigger than a hummingbird, who darted up out of the hosta. She flickered back and forth, looking more spirit than flesh, and Eleanor had trouble keeping her eyes on her.
“You are my fairy godmother?” Eleanor asked, all the longing of her seven years making her face glow.
“Why, yes, sweetpea. This garden is my home. My daughter was born here the very day you were born. She is helping the honeybees find a new home today.”
“Did you give me a useful gift?” Eleanor couldn’t help asking, a bit diffidently.
“Of course, dear, not only did I give you beauty, charm and intelligence, but when I heard your name, of course I gave you curiosity, too.”
“Oh,” Eleanor said slowly and reverently. “Do I really have all of that?”
“You will.” The tiny woman gave a brief squeeze to her belly. “My time is almost here.” She flitted up to a branch of the pear tree as Pumpkin Whiskers ambled back into the garden. “Thanks to you, Kind Sir,” she said. Pumpkin Whiskers nodded solemnly and headed back to his own garden. “He was very kind to send you my way. I don’t like to fly into the open with your mother in the kitchen. I’m in a bit of a hurry today.” Eleanor looked back toward her house, and noticed her mother waving from the window. Eleanor waved back, and her mother disappeared again.
“You may have one wish, sweetpea. The rest we will save until you are older.”
“Oh, thank you!” Eleanor exclaimed. This was more than she hoped for. “Can I please see the fireworks tonight?”
“If you can get your mother to come and cut roses from the arbor, I will take care of the rest,” her tiny fairy godmother said, with a gesture of confidence, and disappeared into the hosta with a soft good-bye.
Eleanor found her mother in the study, filing paperwork.
“Mom, could we cut some roses together?”
“Roses?” her mother asked absently.
“Mom, can we please cut some roses together in the garden? We could put them on the table for dinner tonight. They would look pretty for Independence Day.” Eleanor smiled her best smile, putting all her faith in the charm and beauty granted her by her fairy godmother. Her mother blinked in surprise.
“Okay, sweetheart. I really don’t like to file anyway.” Louise smiled at her daughter.
Together they walked to the rose arbor, and cut several white roses for the table. Eleanor saw a flicker in the sunshine, that could have been a dragonfly, and a twinkling dust seemed to fall on her mother’s hair, making it shine in the sun. They walked to the fence, and cut some red roses, too.
As they arranged the roses, Eleanor offered to help make the salad. “Eleanor, I’ve been thinking,” her mother started to say. “You are old enough for the fireworks this year.” Eleanor clapped her hands with happiness and spun in a circle. Out in the garden, her fairy godmother birthed twin boys. The honeybees founded a new hive amongst the honeysuckle, the bluejay eluded Pumpkin Whiskers again and the robin redbreast pulled a big, juicy worm from the grass.
Later that night, Eleanor looked up at the bursting, bold colors in the sky, seeing the wheeling, spinning lights for the first time ever, thanks to her fairy godmother. She felt peaceful and loved. She hugged her mother extra tight that night. “Happy Fourth, Mom, I love you extra!”
“I love you extra, too, Eleanor. Happy Fourth!”
Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham