A couple summers ago, we were staying with my in-laws in Cape Cod. Flipping through the local paper one day, an article caught my eye. The owners of a local lavender farm had built a fairy garden on the property – a group of tiny houses made from stones and sticks and moss, meant to attract fairies and children hoping to catch a glimpse of them. Right away I decided we had to go see this place.
Now, getting a 5yo boy to visit a lavender farm is kind of a tough sell. The fairy garden intrigued him a little bit, though. So off we went. I will admit that the farm part wasn’t that exciting. It was dull and deserted on this overcast day. Furthermore, it was looking like the fairy garden part was a bust, too. We looked and looked, but could not find anything resembling an enchanted village for tiny woodland sprites.
Then, we saw it. The spires of a thatched-roof stone castle rising out of the underbrush. My son raced over to inspect it more closely. There were a few other structures, too. A wooden door leading to an underground dwelling, a cottage nestled among tree roots. People had left coins stacked on the doorsteps and windowsills for good luck. A hand-lettered sign invited visitors to build their own fairy house out of whatever natural materials they could find. We did.
In one of those moments I’ve experienced many times as a parent, I was struck by a sudden memory. I had done the exact same thing in my backyard as a kid. I remembered crouching in the dirt with a friend, breathing in the smell of moss and damp earth, balancing sticks and pinecones to make a tiny house. Once for a school project in the third or fourth grade, I built an even more elaborate miniature garden in a box, with a tinfoil-lined stream and pine trees. I had completely forgotten about it until that day.
I’ve said before that I don’t subscribe to the second childhood theory of parenthood, nor do I think it’s a nonstop magical adventure. Until a few moments earlier, our family outing had been a forced march through a boring adult’s idea of fun, with flowery scented soaps and too-pungent plants. But then – a tiny castle, a long-forgotten memory, a shared project with my son – I ended up finding exactly what I didn’t know I’d been looking for.
TRIVIA O’ THE DAY: According to this article on fairy gardens, some plants known to attract fairies include lavender, honeysuckle, ferns, and rosemary.