Today’s post was written by my mother, and it explains one hundred percent how I am who I am today and why I try so hard every day to live up to the job description of Mom as set out by her. I was so blessed to be brought up by this remarkable woman. I hope you enjoy it, give it a thumbs-up and share it with your friends. C’mon, give my mama some love!
Directions to Fairyland.
by Gill Katz
I climbed my first tree when I was four years old. It was a gnarled old Jacaranda which bordered our pretty little suburban home in Khumalo, Bulawayo in a then sane kind of Zimbabwe, and the reason for my climb was not altogether my own idea.
“If you climb up the tree..” said older sister Vivien – an very mature and grown-up 10 year old with red curls and a temperament to match – “you will be able to see Fairyland.”
Our mom had read us books filled with deliciously magical fairy tales and the mere thought of actually seeing the glittering towers of Fairyland sent me scurrying up the tree ably assisted by older sister who shoved me onto the first branches. Her evil grin was not seen by me since my eyes were looking to the top of the tree where she had told me to head for. I saw Fairyland from a dizzily dangerous site picked out by a big sister who was hoping her bratty little sister would fall down and maybe create a dent in her head .
I saw the silvery towers and the clouds and I was enchanted! Much later, and having indeed fallen (though not badly) on my descent, my mother soothed me, punished the vengeful sister and explained to me that it wasn’t Fairyland, it was the towers at the cement factory .
I refused to believe Fairyland was not real.
But she insisted on advising me that Fairyland was just a fun place we imagine when we cuddle up and listen to stories at bedtime. I did not believe her. (Nor did I believe my sister was my sister. She was a witch, hell-bent on my ultimate destruction.)
I still climb trees.
Maybe not to look for Fairyland, and certainly my now 60-something sister would not try and make me do anything vaguely dangerous to my health. (She did eventually learn to love me!) In my sixties myself, I marvel incredulously at how I have not changed much since those days of dreaming, believing in fairies and in ‘Happily ever after”.
I am the mother of three adult children who can attest to the fact that their childhood was centered around exploring their environment and then building on that to create their own fairyland.
Our huge Mimosa tree, the tree they all played under as little ones in our Johannesburg home, was a ‘fairy tree’ and happily grew mushrooms for them at its base. As a dutiful mom, I explained that these mushrooms were fungi which must not be eaten, but whose cousins from the friendly greengrocer shop could be eaten and indeed were. The mushrooms were also little tables for the fairies who lived in a hollow in the kindly tree and the children understood that the little folk hid away and could never be seen unless they were seen in the mind’s eye. This was a fairly easy concept for children, for as we know, children’s minds are veritable theatres of everything imaginable.
I utilised the fairy home in the tree for many magical occasions, such as a receiving centre for the precious baby teeth my children lost. As soon as a baby tooth fell out or was yanked out as my son preferred to do to his little sister per a length of string and a slammed door, the little tooth was dutifully placed in a little box with a note to the Tree Tooth Fairy and placed on a branch. After they were asleep , I would dip a 50 cent coin in glue and then glitter and place it in a matchbox which, too, was covered in glitter. I’d add a teeny thank you note, and in the note I would comment on the clean lovely tooth that came from such a good child who brushed his/her teeth! I knew this was a gross manipulation but what the heck? The little matchbox with its little gift of a magical coin and even more magical fairy letter would be discovered the following morning by the recently gap-toothed child with sheer delight and a lisped whisper, “Oh Mommy LOOK!”
The fairy tree also served as a marker for animal funerals. Two dogs, three cats, a few goldfish and a box full of murdered silkworms had been sent to a Fairy Afterworld with serious pomp and ceremony, and little crosses marked their graves. The silkworms had been murdered by baby Michelle (aged 3) who had doused their home with a bottle of shampoo claiming, “I wanted to help them grow hair, Mom!”
Jonny who had owned the wiggling horrors had almost repeated his Auntie Viv’s actions and chased Michelle up a tree where she would fall off on her little noggin, and to appease him, their funeral had been extra special with invited children from the neighbourhood, whose demeanor at these events was extra solemn.
The children had decided that their pets had to be Christian even though ours was a Jewish home. This was debated and voted on based on the fact that the making of a cross with two twigs tied together to make a cross was infinitely easier than trying to create a Star of David. However, the appropriate words were said at each funeral, urging the Fairy Gods to consider them Jewish creatures and provide the necessary kosher meals. I’d hide a smile as I got into their heads and understood just how important this was to them.
The Fairy Tree was also the place where serious commitments were made.
The heart rending handing over of dummies (pacifiers) by each child at the age of approximately three was done here. We would solemnly ask the fairies to accept the ultimate gifts of love for the baby fairies, and the treasured ‘kiddie tranquiliser’ would be offered in a dutifully decorated box that would be placed high up for the fairy moms to collect later. My husband or I would sneak out, and just as we played ‘tooth fairy’ when the children were asleep – would role play ‘Dummy Fairy’ and seize the box with its precious cargo. Then a little treasure, possibly a small toy or a chocolate would be left on the by now deranged-traumatised-but-now-sleeping child’s pillow as a thank you for the greatest gift a three year old could give. In the morning, I would crow with delight together with the excited-and-still-suffering addicted child and say “You see? The fairy mom is SO HAPPY! WELL DONE!’
Weddings happened under the tree, too. Nikki married Wayne. Michelle married Greg and Jonny thought weddings were silly and waited until he was 35 to change his mind.
As a witness to these weddings and caterer to boot, I watched and smiled to myself as the children role played what I hoped would indeed happen when they were older though not necessarily to the little ones they stood with under the shady tree. As glossy little heads under my favourite lacy tea cloth nodded with every “I do”, I entered my own ‘fairyland’ and saw them as adults and prayed that their dreams would come true.
In 1996, 2001 and 2008 three of my fairytales did come true, Wayne and Greg were not their chosen ones but were there at the weddings to smile and recall their childhood weddings as Nikki married her Yossi and Michelle her Darren. Disbelieving Jon married his glorious Lori, but it was in America and far from our fairy tree, in South Africa. At the weddings, the tea cloths were replaced by hellishly expensive designer wedding gowns that transformed our little girls into fairy princesses. The caterer was replaced by the professionals and I could not help but long for the teeny peanut butter sandwiches and the jelly beans placed on kiddy plastic plates we had so enjoyed at their fairy tree weddings.
But when the band struck up and my princesses of Fairyland took to the dance floor on the arms of their Fairy Princes, I was returned to my treetop in Bulawayo, where I indeed did look straight into the very heart of Fairyland.
My sister had told the truth after all.
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