Clap Your Hands if You Believe

We are at the age: Elder Girleen has left princesses and their overly-sweet attendant glitter and frills far far behind, putting them aside as childish things.

We are at the age: she’s become all arched feathery eyebrows and long strong scraped-up legs, and mind that works and works and works, so quickly that it takes my breath away (would that I had such a mind, still).

We are at the age: for fairies.

Even fairies, poor things, have been painted by the broad marketing brush that colors every stage of childhood nowadays: they populate Target, genus Disney (most specifically, Tinkerbell). Those fairies are of little interest to Elder Girleen, or the other seven-year-old girls who talk fairies over, dissect fairy behavior, and attempt to ensnare them, during recess.

Maybe they (those commercial fairies) are too spunky, too bouncy, too easy. They’re too easily purchased, too easily possessed.

The ones that have cast their glamour over Elder Girleen and her crew are more hypothetical, and thus, more seductive. They don’t like the color red. They might pinch your toes while you are sleeping. They are well-inclined toward girls, but most of the time they can take them or leave them. They are other, they are magic, they are wild.

They are all id, and reckless. They are the part of childhood that’s already passing out of Elder Girleen’s life, so very quickly.

The sort of fairies the seven-year-old girls in Elder Girleen’s set are besotted by resemble most the ones in Peter Pan — and not the denatured Disney version, which rubbed off all the sharp edges and dark corners and left nothing but cute.

No where else is there a better depiction of the engaging and brutal heartlessness that is sometimes part-and-parcel of childhood than in Peter Pan, for it’s a story that, along with fairies of the sort it contains, reminds us that magic isn’t necessarily all sweetness and light.

Which doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. Magic isn’t magic if we can get a handle on it, and this is something that our children haven’t lost the knack of knowing.

Of course we don’t ever want our children to want, or to fear. But at the same time, we are so well-meaning, and we sanitize so much!

And how much smarter our children are than we are, to pick the complicated over the easy, the old-school fairy over the new.

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