I've always believed in bringing magic into children's lives. I had a very magical childhood, filled with stories of fairies, leprechauns, banshees, gnomes and more. My mother's family were Irish, so I had all of that Celtic magic. My dad's family were much more practical but even my grandmother, who was very straitlaced and rigid, told me stories of fairies. She lived in a big Victorian house in Niantic, Connecticut. I lost a tooth during one visit and put it under my pillow at her house that night. In the morning, I found a quarter, the usual booty for a tooth at that time. As we walked downstairs, she told me that the toothfairies turned all the baby teeth into pearls that they strung and wore around their necks when they went out, and if I looked under the carpeting at the bottom of the stairs, I might find some. Sure enough, there were a couple of tiny pearls under that rug. Every visit, I would look for pearls. Sometimes there were none, but every once in a while, I would find one or two. I'm sure they were from a broken necklace in the past, but to me they were left by the fairies.
When my children were young, I told them the fairy stories I had learned and created some of my own to explain natural phenomena. When we would pass by a lake or pond with wisps of fog still lingering on the surface, I would say that they were the fairies dancing on the water. One particularly foggy morning, one of my sons declared that the fairies must be having a huge party that day because we couldn't even see the surface.
Ever since I moved into this home, I've had a fairy garden every year. It gets shaded by the leaves of the apple trees in the summer, so there are snowdrops that bloom in the early spring, columbine that bloom a little later and shade-loving annuals like begonias and impatiens in the summer. There is also a trillium plant and a jack-in-the-pulpit that have decided they like to be near the fairies. It's fun for the younger set to look for the fairies and see the changes each year. Sometimes I hide a gnome or two that they have to look for, which is a fun way of teaching them to be aware of their environment. Occasionally the fairies move around too, reinforcing that awareness. This year, they have glow-in-the-dark paths to their little houses so they can find their way late at night, and the woodland gnomes have taken up residence near our front door.
I know that a lot of people have trouble with the Santa Claus myth, but for me it was more magic. Every Christmas Eve, my parents would wake us at midnight to the sound of sleigh bells and, "Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas." We would rush to the window and look for Santa's sleigh in the sky. There were a couple of times when I swore, I could see it flying away in the distance. I don't celebrate Christmas as an adult, but still maintain the magic of the season with the Snow Fairies during the Winter Solstice because I think magic is an important component of a child's life. It's a good way to encourage and nurture imagination. This doesn't have to be done with holidays but can just be a part of everyday life. You can build fairy houses in the yard, leaving edible things that the animals (or fairies) will take. You can point out the fairies dancing on the water or look for woodland spirits in the bark of the trees.
I will be taking a break from this blog until June. I am going to China to teach music in two bilingual preschools, including teaching the teachers and parents about music development in young children. I need these next couple of weeks to prepare for my trip, and then I will be out of the country. For those of you who would like to follow my travels, I will be posting an online travelogue on the other blog page. I leave on May 10th. Meanwhile, please send me topics you would like me to address here for when I return.