The Fairy Hunt

I wrote the essay below a couple of years ago to remind myself to enjoy my daughter’s childhood while I can. It’s a cliche, I know, but kids really do grow up in a flash. I still can’t believe that today I’m the mom of a tween who’s on pins and needles as she counts down the days to her first middle school dance. This piece was originally published in the Marin IJ.

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I have my reasons for not giving in to my eight-year-old’s plea for an impromptu fairy hunt at a local waterfall. It’s after five on a school day. A sink full of dirty dishes screams for my attention. There’s dinner to make. Homework to do. Besides, it poured rain yesterday. The trail leading to the waterfall is sure to be a muddy Slip and Slide. Never mind that—can I even find the place? It’s been so long since I’ve been there.

Then I look at my daughter’s face. And I feel guilty. It’s not, for a change, like she’s whining for me to take her to some store to buy whatever item du jour she simply must have now, or the world will end.

She’s asking to do something positive. Something that doesn’t cost money or require borrowing my laptop or phone.  She’s asking, indirectly, to get some fresh air and exercise. To enjoy the natural beauty we’re so lucky to be surrounded with. Things I’m always encouraging her to do.

“Okay,” I say. “Get your jacket–let’s go.”

The murky sky is spitting by the time we get in the car, the afternoon light fading. By some miracle, we don’t get lost. Ours is the only vehicle in the small parking area by the trailhead.

Sadie skips ahead of me. We follow the trail past skyscraper-high redwoods, feathery ferns and tiny white wildflowers that look like pearls strewn in the grass.

“Come on, Mama,” she calls impatiently, pausing to wait for me. “I’ll show you where the fairies live!”

When did she get so tall, I wonder, staring at the mane of hair swishing across her back as I try to catch up. Will she even believe in fairies a year from now?

We hear the waterfall’s muffled rumble before we see it. And then we are standing above it. Bridalveil or Niagra Falls it’s not. But for this Southern California transplant, having a waterfall of any size in my own backyard is still a thrill. Thanks to my persistent little girl, we get to witness the waterfall in all its rain-swollen glory. We stop, for a few minutes, to watch it dance over granite boulders and crash into the rushing stream below.

Then it’s back to the fairy hunt.  Sadie leads me down a steep path, across a small bridge, and up a bluff on the other side of the stream. She runs to a toppled redwood behind a bench overlooking the waterfall.

“This is it! This is where the fairies live!” she cries, eyes gleaming as she points to a hole in the side of the moss-covered log. “See that fairy dust?

I look at the powdery gold substance coating the walls of the fairy condo–some kind of mold, probably– smile and squeeze her hand. The fairies themselves never materialize. But it doesn’t matter. Sharing this special place together is all the magic we need.

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