During the next few weeks, my daughter will turn 18, and my son will turn 20 and all I can think about is the fairies.
I had this plan, when they were small, to wake them up in the night during a full moon and lead them outside in their pajamas to look for fairies. We lived, for a while, in a little farmhouse with acres of pasture where millions of fireflies danced in the summer. I imagined buying my children bonbons and calling them “fairy food.” I might have made fairy houses out of twigs and flowers and moss and put them where the kids could “discover” them. Maybe we would sit on a blanket and talk about how the fireflies were fairies, dancing, until we all believed it. We would eat our bonbons … and hold our breath with wonderment.
I planned it over and over. But I always remembered it at the wrong time: when the moon was already full and I was tired and the kids got to bed late. I didn’t have any bonbons and I hadn’t made any fairy houses. And what about mosquitoes … or chiggers. I had a lot of excuses and year after year, I didn’t do it. It’s kind of late now.
It’s not that they don’t have buckets of wonderful memories. We did live in a farmhouse with a pond full of fish and frogs that was home to a crane and geese. We did have horses for a few years, and an assembly of kittens and ducks and other creatures. We lived off the grid in the mountains and camped and traveled. I read aloud to them almost every night for years. We had birthday parties, Christmas trees and tea parties with all the stuffed animals. Their father even threw them a “Children’s Day.” He felt it was wrong that only mothers and fathers had their own days. He made up games and started the morning with sugary cereal topped with whipped cream and chocolate.
As I recall, I griped at him about that.
I wish I hadn’t.
I am not lamenting because they turned out badly — they’re fantastic. They still like me. We still talk and laugh and they listen to me, even though they don’t always choose what I would choose. Even when they move out, I know we’ll be close.
It’s just that when I look at them now, a young woman and a young man, and I remember their fat, sticky cheeks and their tiny, high voices, I wish I could go back and steal some of that time. I wish I’d played more dolls and dress up with my daughter. I wish I’d played more ball and made more art with them. I wish I’d known how sweet it was when they crawled in bed with us and hadn’t gotten so frustrated with the limbs flying into my face and waking me up.
I wish I’d written down more of the funny things they said. I recorded some, and it’s miraculous how those journal entries instantly transport me. Even then, they already were themselves. Looking back through the years distorts the memories, like those old, yellowed snapshots. But reading those quotes makes it all present.
I used to dread those older women at the grocery store who smiled beatifically at the kid in my cart. The kid who was whining and climbing over the edge, or fighting with a sibling or pulling things off the shelves — smeared with smushed graham crackers I hadn’t purchased yet. Those women always said wistfully, “It goes so fast.”
You know the women I’m talking about. They show up just when you’re at the end of your rope. And you really want to retort: “Whatever, lady. You can say that because yours are grown.”
Yes, she can. I’m that lady now. Staring at other people’s toddlers in a way I hope doesn’t look creepy and biting my tongue from saying anything to the harried mother. She doesn’t know. She can’t. She’s probably not even supposed to.
I’m not in a hurry to be a grandmother; I’m only in my late 40s, and my kids have a lot of their own living to do. But if I do become a grandmother, and I have the hint of a chance, I’m going to take my grandchildren to look for fairies. Maybe I’ll invite their parents to come.