Updated: Nov 21, 2018
One of the joys of a man’s life is raising daughters. I was one of the lucky ones. All of our children are girls. My oldest daughter, Kayla, grew up with all the visions and ideals that being a girl defines. Princess dresses, sleepovers and dancing to music with a group of young ladies in the house were all important to her at a young age. She was also a leader amongst her peers. At the age of five, our house and property were always full of children as one of the neighborhood hangouts. When her younger sister was born, even more so. I have memories of a group of girls playing on our property with our one year old, Abigail, following the pack around the yard, barely old enough to walk.
From the first year, the Candy Fairy became a fixture in our household as Mom explained to her that during Halloween, if you give up ten pieces of candy the next day, the candy fairy would bring you a present. I have a vivid memory of Kayla wearing the plastic slipper shoes that the candy fairy brought her one year. They were bright pink with yellow butterflies on them. I took her to the Scottsdale mall that night to see a movie and we walked from the three-story parking structure to a narrow mall entrance in the back of the mall. Her new plastic slippers echoed with every step from the walls of the buildings as we crossed the small avenue that separated the parking structure from the mall entrance, clip clopping her way up the narrow entrance alongside a restaurant that had outside dining. As we passed the dining area, several tables of dinner patrons on the porch became silent, watching the girl with loud clip-clopping plastic shoes. One woman noticed the reticent attitude of the diners as the only noise was the shallow staccato echoes of her shoes as everyone stared at us. As we walked past her table she loudly called out, “Cool Shoes!” much to my three-year-old’s chagrin as she smiled back at the woman.
By the time she was four, we realized that this child of ours was magnetic enough with the ladies in the neighborhood, that the number of pieces of candy needed to be upped to 20 for the candy fairy to arrive. It was a small dent, but it saved on the dental bills, or so we told ourselves. When the count went up to twenty, it was casually thrown in with the conversation. I remember Kayla turning her head slightly, thinking that number through in her mind. We quietly ate dinner with a trepid look as she processed that new number. Eventually, she shrugged her shoulders and moved on with the conversation, much to Mom and Dad’s relief.
Five years old was an important time for this growing girl who tried so hard to catch the Candy Fairy leaving presents. She became frustrated with trying to stay awake to catch her in the process. At five, her fascination with shoes had grown from plastic to the real thing. She had pleaded with us to buy her a pair of new sneakers that had pink hearts and little rhinestones on them. “Maybe the Candy Fairy will bring you a pair this year,” Mom suggested.
Halloween had become more important than Christmas, at that point in life, for her love of this strange woman, the Candy Fairy that would leave presents for kids in exchange for candy. She had several conversations with me that year about what the Fairy must look like. “Surely she was pretty! She probably wore a dress like the princesses from Disney movies. Maybe she even carried a wand?”
I took her to see the Wizard of Oz that year. After Dorothy’s house landed in Munchkin land, and the fairy appears, my daughter suddenly scooted up on the end of her seat with rapt attention. She studied every moment the woman made.
That year, a crisis of faith in the Candy Fairy occurred as Kayla heard conversations about travelling to see family in California. We were leaving on Halloween, as soon as the trick-or-treating was over. Mom assured her that the Candy Fairy knew where all the kids were, so this wouldn’t be a problem. The question of “Are you sure about that?” came up several times that week. A bowl of candy with the exact amount of pieces was, hesitantly, left on the dining room table with a note for the Candy Fairy. We shut and locked the door. Kayla just stood there, staring at it, with worry written all over her little face as I packed the family in the SUV.
The day after Halloween, as she was taking a nap in the hotel room, Mom pulled out the pretty sneakers with hearts and rhinestones and gave them to me to take down to the desk in the lobby, with instructions to have the desk call and ask for Kayla. I explained to the women at the front desk about who the Candy Fairy was, handed them the shoes and hid in the lobby seating area behind a potted tree. One of the women called our room, asked for Kayla, and told her that the Candy Fairy had left her a present at the front desk. Everyone in the lobby could hear her little feet running down the hallway with glee to the lobby, much to their excitement. She stormed the counter to pick up the shoes. Then the questions, “What did she look like? Was she wearing a princess dress? What color was her dress?” She proudly wore those shoes all weekend as we gathered with family, making sure to tell each person that arrived about the Candy Fairy bringing her the shoes.
Kayla’s sixth birthday was a princess party. Much planning went into this party and every little girl at church and in our neighborhood attended. It was quite the gala. She had her heart set on a Disney princess dress that she badly wanted. We were starting a business that year and had to explain to her that we simply didn’t have the money to spend forty dollars on a dress that, at best, might be worn once for a party. She pleaded for weeks before the party, for us to buy her the dress. Nothing else would do.
Now I should probably tell you that Kayla’s Aunt Barb sewed clothing for a hobby and had sent her a pant suit with matching top that had an umbrella on the shirt. It was a cute set of black corduroy pants with a white shirt that had a rainbow umbrella bordered by the same material as the pants. One week before the party, she and I were driving in the car as she was brainstorming how to get that dress from K-Mart that she so desperately wanted. She looked out the right-side window, thinking the moment through. With a burst of excitement, she threw off the seat belt, stood on the seat and screamed at me. “I know … Aunt Barb can sew me a dress just like it! All we need is to send her a picture!”
I almost drove our SUV off the road in shock as she stood and screamed it. I pulled over to the curb and explained that sewing a dress like that would be quite an undertaking for an aunt that lived in a different state. The party was one week away.” She sat on the seat in a huff, and that was the point that she finally gave up on the dress and accepted that she would have to resign herself to whatever she and mom picked out, with the little money we had.
The day before the party, Mom came home from shopping, holding the very princess dress that Kayla wanted. “It was on the markdown rack,” she explained. “Fifteen dollars!” Joy filled the house the next day as she opened her birthday present early, before the party. And the princess party was quite the neighborhood Gala. And I must say, she had quite an eye for a good dress. She was definitely the most beautiful princess at the party. And I knew that the dress had everything to do with how she envisioned that the Candy Fairy looked.
At Christmastime a few months later, Kayla was playing in her cousin Matt’s room at my brother’s house during our Christmas dinner. She was getting older and so was Matt. Her cousin told her “Santa isn’t real.” Now … Kayla had never had great anticipation about Santa Clause. He was just part of the holidays, but the question did come up the following day as she and I drove to town in the SUV.
“Matt told me Santa Clause isn’t real.”
I looked at my daughter’s furrowed brow. “Are you asking me if Santa isn’t real?” She nodded her head. “Are you sure you want to go down this road? You may not like the answer. It open’s a very big bucket of worms.”
“He’s not real, right?”
“So, who puts the presents under the tree?”
“Mom and I do.” The answer wasn’t a far stretch for her. I think she already pieced most of it together in her mind. I didn’t want to lie to her as some parents do. I began to explain to her that Jesus is real and that is what Christmas was all about. She already understood that, but I was afraid she would think he wasn’t if he was as much a concept that couldn’t be seen with physical eyes, just as Santa and all these other personalities that we create for the holidays couldn’t be seen, doing their holiday deeds. I told her, “Santa is just a concept that we celebrate to make it fun for the kids.”
I watched her with great trepidation, not because the Santa balloon had been popped, but because of where I knew this conversation would lead. Kayla turned her head and stared out the right-side window for a minute. She finally turned to me and asked, “What about the Easter Bunny?”
“He’s not real. Mom and I put out the Easter Baskets while you are sleeping.”
She looked at me with blinking eyes. “And the Tooth Fairy and the quarters?” The question was quite executorial and came fast.
I looked at her with a quiet, reserved attitude. “Me and Mom.” At this point I was counting in my head just how many fake characters we create for our children and I was pretty sure there was only one left. I swallowed hard and prayed that the conversation was over. And I waited!
We drove for at least five minutes as she stared out the window. I was starting to feel a sense of relief, but I knew she did her thinking while she looked out the window when we drove together. Honestly, I was counting the minutes as her little mind spun and thought through the truthfulness of the conversation.
She suddenly turned with a look of fear on her face and said, “The Candy Fairy?”
There are times in every parent’s life that we don’t want to have to be truthful with our children because it means they are growing up, and we all want to hold onto that innocence of a child for just one more year. I sadly looked at her and said, “Me and Mom.”
“The Candy Fairy too! Are you kidding me?” Once again, she was standing on the seat as she yelled it.
“Unfortunately, yes. The Candy Fairy also.” It was a moment of sadness as I watched her sit on her seat, putting the seat belt back on and crossing her arms as she stared out the window in a huff. My little girl was growing up! I’m not sure which one of us took the news harder. I finally pulled over and told her, “With knowledge comes responsibility. Don’t tell Abigail. Let her enjoy the Candy Fairy as much as you did.”
Kayla stared at me for a moment with blinking eyes. She shrugged one shoulder, unsure how to respond to that. I started to drive off and she turned and looked at me with one final comment. “This really sucks!”
I chuckled and said, “Wait till you have to start paying for a mortgage, car payments and princess dresses. That’s when growing up really starts to suck!”