The Quarantine Fairy
Grass poked at my legs as I lay sprawled on a patch of lawn. I was straining to read anthropologist Margaret Mead’s autobiography; the setting sun was playing havoc with shadows thrown across the pages. Exasperated by the words that blurred before me, I put the book down and rested my head on the ground. With my eyes closed, I listened to the sounds of bleating lambs, chirping birds and distant cars. Suddenly, this easy symphony was interrupted by what could have been mistaken for the burbling of larks but was the delicious sound of giggling children. It’s infection spread to my lips; I was smiling into the soil. My neighbours children, having their evening bath, could be heard through the open window above my head. I raised my face to listen in their direction, the soft patter of feet and fits of laughter floated out. In these times of stomach-churning uncertainty, their simple joy brought me such comfort.
I love children, but these particular cubs hold my heart in their tiny hands, throwing it like a ball between them. I have watched these children be brought home from the hospital, not quite human. I have had the particular pleasure of watching low-volumned episodes of Friends, listening for any sound that might come from their bedrooms as they lay asleep and their parents escaped the house for a few precious hours. And when they did wake, it was me that on occasion, had lifted them from a cot and softly rocked away their mewling. More recently, I had seen them rush home from school, rip off gingham and maroon jumpers, to climb trees and wreak mayhem.
Normally, when I come back from University, I make my way over to their house, ready for dressing up and being led through the garden by a piece of string. But at a time when social distancing is saving lives, I have had to content myself with the small snatches of shrieking and garbled talking I hear erupting from open windows. Still, I wanted to do more than just be a nosy-nellie on their little lives. And so, with some dried-up gel pens and terrible rhymes, I introduced a band of Fairies into their lives!
A group of trees up the road from our houses, where I know the cubs like to visit, provided the perfect location for the kids to stumble upon a letter addressed to them! Emboldened by a grateful text message sent by their mum and the present of a chocolate bunny left by the kids, I continued with the fairymail. Soon there was lively correspondence happening and Mead herself would be impressed by the exchange ritual that was happening. “The Fairies” left drawings to colour in and crochet rings for them to fit over their fingers, whilst the kids sprinkled sorrel leaves and left a digestive biscuit (If you’re wondering, I did eat that soggy digestive left under a tree; it’s called commitment). As rapport grew, the kids even had the cheek to ask, ‘could you leave us a treat?’, and by treat they weren’t referring to carefully crocheted rings but something more of the chocolate variety.
Pandemics require people to behave responsibly, act like grownups. But there is still magic to be found in these strange times and we should hold onto childlike play as hard as I will hug these kids, when allowed!