Everytime a child says “I don’t believe in fairies” there is a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.
J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan
Sorry, fairies. It’s not that I don’t believe in them, it’s just that I’ve never really liked them. I hope that hasn’t left too many of them with asthma or one leg shorter than the other.
Fairies have always struck me as rather fey and ineffectual. Very pretty, of course, but what to they actually do? I don’t remember having any books about fairies as a little girl, and I didn’t own fairy wings or a fairy costume. As an adult I have lumped the whole fairy thing in with princesses: patriarchal nonsense that I want no part in for my daughter.
But then my cousin had a combined 30th and 3rd birthday party with her daughter. The theme was fairies. I decided that I wouldn’t make a big deal to May Blossom about my feelings on fairies, because as we all know, nothing makes you like something like your mother thinking it’s a waste of time.
May Blossom doesn’t have any books about fairies either. She has books about tigers, gorillas, bears, cats, dogs and kids. She does have some fairy tales, and one fantastic counting book by Alison Jay called 123: A Child’s First Counting Book (which we like to call ‘One Hundred and Twenty-three: A Child’s First Counting Book’, in honour of the time H’s seven-year-old cousin sat down to read May Blossom a book she called ‘Farm One Hundred and Twenty-three’. Well, that’s what it said on the cover.)
Jay’s book counts up from one to ten and back down to one again using fairy tale characters: three little pigs, four frog princes, six gingerbread men and so on. Five is represented by five fluttering fairies. May Blossom has always thought the fairies were hats, for some reason. Maybe because the illustrations show them as little women wearing big hoop skirts, which look the same shape as a beanie? Anyway, she has never cared when I have explained they are fairies, little people with wings like insects. She listens politely and then tells me firmly, ‘Hats.’
So she wouldn’t feel left out at the party, my mother bought her a pair of fairy wings from the two-dollar shop. I had only managed to procure some angel wings (if there’s one thing I like less than fairies it’s angels), so I was pleased we had the real thing.
I was still very sceptical about the whole idea of strapping wings onto an eighteen month old and telling her she was a fairy. It just seemed a bit weird.
The morning of the party, while May Blossom was still in her pyjamas, I showed her the white, glittery wings. She wasn’t that fussed. Then I put them on her and something awful happened.
‘You’re a FAIRY!’ I squealed. ‘Look at you, you lovely twinkly little fairy! Don’t you look beautiful! Aren’t you the prettiest little fairy EVER?!’
I don’t know what it was, but she suddenly looked really, really, really stupidly cute. I managed to pull myself together and stop acting like a dick pretty quickly, only to relapse when H returned and started capering about with glee at the sight of our little fairy.
Maybe being a fairy every now and then isn’t the end of the world. She can still be a clever fairy. A fairy who reads books and plays with Duplo. A fairy who counts and dances like Axl Rose and wears mostly primary colours.
She wore her wings at the party for a while, and didn’t seem all that smitten with the much more elaborate costumes of my aunt and cousins (though I must say no one can pull off fairy outfits like my sixty-year old aunt and thirty-year-old cousin: both stunning blondes with six-foot-long legs).
I won’t pretend I wasn’t secretly pleased, though, when May Blossom ditched the wings and had her face painted to look like a cat. And I won’t pretend I wasn’t sporting whiskers and a black nose by the end of the day too.