Purple Fairy Wings

“I see the purple fairies have retired their wings for the season.”

“What are you talking about, Pop-pops? There are no such things as fairies.”

My seven year old granddaughter and I are sitting at the kitchen table discussing fairies over coffee and cream. That is, I have a mug of coffee with cream; she has a small cup of warm milk with a dollop of coffee for color.

“Of course there are fairies. You can see their wings hanging outside on the fire bushes.”

“Pop-pops, how old are you?”

“Me? I’m fifty-four years old.”

“You’re fifty-four years old and you still don’t know that there are no such things as fairies?”

“Then how do you explain the wings?” I ask her.

“Why don’t you take her outside and show them to her,” my wife suggests.

We put on our hats and coats and step outside into the November cold. “Over here,” I say, pointing to the red-leafed bushes that line our driveway.

Scattered among the leaves you can see tiny stalks with red berries on each end. Above each berry hang two tiny purple convex husks joined by a circular collarette that surrounds the stem.

“There, see?” I point out the tiny purple structures which resemble small sets of wings, just the right size for fairies.

My granddaughter eyes them carefully, then rubs her nose. “I don’t know, Pop-pops; are you sure—”

“Of course I’m sure. Look—see here—this is the collar that the fairy places around her neck, and attached at the back are the wings.”

“There sure are a lot of them.”

“That’s because all of the fairies have hung them up for winter. Fairies can’t stand the cold. They spend all winter in their underground cottages by the fire, sipping tea with honey. They’ll come out again when the weather warms up in the spring.”

“Why is there a red berry with each set of wings?”

“So the fairies can find them.”

“How does each fairy know which set of wings are hers?”

“Good question. I’m not sure about that myself.”

“Can we go back inside now? I’m a little cold.”

We retreat into the house, hang up our coats and hats and return to our coffee at the kitchen table.

“Are you sure about the fairies, Pop-pops?”

“Of course I’m sure. You saw the wings, didn’t you?”

She takes a sip of coffee milk and stares off into space, seemingly contemplating the deeper questions of life. Then she says: “Next thing you know, you’ll probably be insisting there’s a Santa Claus, too.”

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