― Dr. Seuss
The other day I was asked about my fondest memory as a child.
Tough question. I have so many memories of a wonderful childhood with loving, interesting, adventurous, extended family that I knew I would need plenty of time to think about it.
During the Christmas Holidays, we sometimes visited my mother’s family in Florida. When a white Christmas means sand between your toes, rather than a fluffy blanket of frozen moisture you can sled or ski on, the memories are very different.
This particular year my Irish grandfather traveled with us. A car trip with four kids, a recently widowed senior, and stressed out parents in a single station wagon was in itself an adventure. But things got even better after we arrived at my Aunt and Uncle’s house for the Holidays.
The baking began almost immediately if you can imagine three southern sisters attempting to outdo each other with traditional, amended, and the most current contemporary cookie recipes. The aroma of cinnamon, sugar, and other exotic spices filled the morning air, every morning. The cookies were frosted, decorated and trimmed within an inch of their little cookie lives. Silver beads, peppermint chips, glazed fruit, and royal icing joined warm gooey chocolate on every tray of delectable treats.
These cooking competitions continued throughout the day until dinner, where one grandfather and three happy husbands, basked in the glory of specialty potato dishes, rich gravy, fresh salads and innumerable vegetable casseroles graced the table.
With a sideboard of fancy dessert, cakes of every kind and sometimes even homemade ice cream, this was a very happy crowd. Even the children, pacified with innumerable homemade cupcakes throughout the day found themselves overwhelmed at dinner.
But one fortunate morning my Irish grandfather, known to all of us kids as “Ryany” woke us before the break of dawn and ushered us as quietly as possible to the bed of my cousins’ paternal grandmothers truck. Now some of the cousins were too little to be trusted with riding in the open bed of a farm truck. Those cousins got to sleep in that morning. Some siblings, bordering on teen-aged, chose to forego this trip. Huge mistake. Just my humble opinion.
We rattled, bumped, jolted and tossed around all the way out-of-town. From the paved interstate to the county road to the hard packed gravel of back roads, we finally bounced off the grid onto granny’s farm. She’d told us many times it was a magical place. I knew it would be, not because she told us, but because Ryany was with us, and he knew where to find magic of all kinds.
Finally, the grownups parked the truck, not too far from an enormous live oak. Ryany ushered us from the bed of the truck, still in our PJ’s to the dew-soaked grass. We climbed up the side of the small hill to peer over the top just as the sky began to lighten towards daybreak.
As the sun rose, the light of day revealed sparkling lights on a gargantuan spider web at the base of the ancient live oak tree. I knew it for what it was immediately.
The home of the Faeries.
Irish granddads know everything about magic and magical creatures. They’re Irish. He’d explained to me before, and I remembered it then in a rush, the same as I did this morning. Holes found at the base of ancient oaks or elms, oversized spider webs and rings of mushrooms were always magical doorways for the Fae folk. Always had been, always would be.
Sometimes, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I forgot how whimsical life could be for children before the internet, Facebook, Instagram and snapchat. Recently I remembered.
I went to visit the site of the fae entryway, and the giant old oak was still there. I placed a small door, a tiny bundle of dried flowers, and some loose charms at the site. My hope is that my humble offering will alert the fae that humans still honor their traditions, and respect their space. Also, that we do not believe it’s wise to keep their magic out of the ordinary world.