Zoë, who was hard at work colouring in the fairy garden she'd made for the castle grounds, suddenly stopped colouring, looked up at Benjamin and said, "Benny, do you think fairies are real?"
"Oh, absolutely," he answered.
"Mom, do you think fairies are real?"
"Oh, I don't know..." I hedged.
Benjamin puffed out his chest and said authoritatively, "Don't ask her. Grown ups are really bad at knowing this sort of thing!"
And thus I was saved from having to either confirm or deny the existence of fairies.
My Grandpa Conrad would probably have quoted Joyce Kilmer in saying, "I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree" if he encountered this tree (a poem I think I will have my children (and myself) memorize this coming school year). Either that or he'd be aghast at how many other things were growing on it (what negligence!). However he would have felt about it, I felt like I might never see a poem as lovely as a tree when I saw how this big strong tulip poplar was cradling a tiny fairy garden of moss and mushrooms.
So fairies must exist! Because here is a tiny fairy garden to prove it!
When I told my mom (through Facebook) about the tree and Benjamin and Zoë's conversation, she quoted J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan: "Clap your hands! Clap your hands if you believe in fairies! Don't let Tink die!!!" then said, "Oh, how young Me believed!! Can you hear my sincere clapping ringing down through history?"
Anyway, later in the day, after I felt like I'd given the kids quite a bit of work to do—I had even stopped Benjamin from playing to give him work to do—it came to be dinnertime and I asked Miriam to ask Daddy to start his dinner plans since I was still working on the windows. His plans were pretty simple tonight—just sandwiches and corn on the cob—but there was still work to do. He set the kids to shucking the corn and when they were finished that he gave Rachel and Miriam more jobs and instructed Benjamin to "go play."
Benjamin came outside and fooled around for a few minutes before saying to me, "You know, it's not really fair that I'm told to go play all the time when I want to be useful. I want to contribute to the family, too."
So we had a little discussion about how sometimes he can be a teensy bit hard to work with in the kitchen because he's so bouncy and when everyone's got hot/sharp stuff it's not very safe to have a bouncy child around. I also reminded him that while everyone was shucking corn he had been asked to fetch a second garbage bag but had put up such a big stink about having to do it that Miriam eventually went to do it herself. And then there's the fact that he throws a bit of a fit whenever he's asked to fill up the water pitcher for dinner.
"Those are all good points," he admitted.
"So I guess what we can learn from this is that if you want to be someone we can depend on, you have to be dependable. Teach us that you're helpful by being helpful. Do the things you're asked to do and do them well, no matter how trivial they are—whether it's filling up a pitcher with water or getting a garbage bag. That way we'll learn to associate Benjamin with dependability. Now do you really want me to give you a job? Because I have a job in mind; I always have a job in mind."
"Will you clean off the table for dinner? I don't think anyone has started doing that yet and I don't think anyone quite finished putting away the groceries or cleaning up after lunch."
And he went inside and got straight to work clearing the table. I saw him putting the bananas on the counter from my perch outside the window.
I'm glad that he wants to be helpful (at least some of the time) and that he's growing up so well. We are lucky to have a kid like Benjamin in our lives!