It’s 3:00 am on the eve of my kid's Birthday. And once again, I have transformed into a fairy.
On 3 nights of the year (there are 3 ‘shes’), I grow wings (get the ladder out of the garage), and pull a magical birthday wonderland of colorful streamers and twinkly orbs out of my butt (go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of party shit and balloons to throw up on the walls of her room) for the little princesses to wake up to. As my fairy magic has matured, a process has evolved:
1) wait patiently (wine helps) until the kid falls asleep.
2) wait another 45-minutes after that for the deep, dreamless sleep (to further minimize the likelihood that she’ll wake up if I accidentally step on her face).
3) sneak into her room and voluntarily engage my fight-or-flight response for an eternity as I decorate her room with crepe paper (SCRRRRAPE & CRRRUNCH), scotch tape (“SHHHHHT!…SNAP!”), helium balloons (“BLUUUM!” & “BLAAAM!” – or whatever is the sound of helium balloons knocking together in the quiet of the night), ribbon, and a gift bag with tissue paper (“SHWOOT!” & “CRUNCH!”).
4) have another glass of wine and lament the 6 months I just shaved off of my life before putting myself and my frazzled nervous system to bed.
5) wake up in the morning and remember why I love being the birthday fairy.
Though exhausted from the mental marathon from the night before, it’s so worth it when she comes in my room with the sentiment of a Christmas morning painted on her face: “Something magical came in the middle of the night, just for me.” And the words that make it all worth it:
“Mom! She came!”
Climbing up and down a ladder barefoot and breathless in the quiet of the night, with potentially thunderous party decorations in my hands, kinda feels trying NOT to be noticed by Great White Sharks while swimming amongst them on your period.
Ok, ok – so one situation only risks being discovered as the Birthday Fairy, and the other risks being bitten in the armpit (or worse) by a 20 ft. saw-toothed monster before being torn to bloody shreds and eaten, but let’s not focus on the details – it’s almost the same thing.
The Birthday Fairy tradition was started by my 3 older brothers on the eve of my 10th birthday - also the night my grandfather died (their antidote to suck-ness, I suppose.) I never suspected that the magical creature(s) that snuck into my room every year to create a wonderland of crepe paper and balloons could have been my brothers, as their other favorite past-times the other 364 days of the year were pinning me down and farting in my face, giving me wedgies in front of their friends, using me for wrestling practice, and generally bossing me around with the very effective threat: “If you don’t [perform said request], you can’t hang out with me or use any of my stuff.”
When my oldest daughter (now 15) was 4, I was inspired by some unknown force to do the same (decorate her room, not fart in her face ), and never stopped.
They’re older now. My youngest is about to turn eleven. These days, they’ve copped on, and I know that they know.
And they know that I know that they know… But they say nothing.
And on their birthday eve they go to bed early on purpose. And they pretend to sleep amidst the “SCRRRRAPE, CRRRUNCH, SHHHHHT, SNAP, BLUUUM, BLAAAM, SHWOOT, & CRUNCH.”
And they keep their eyes closed when they know I’m there – sweating my balls off and giving myself a panic attack up on a ladder - in celebration of the day they were born.
Perhaps it’s the knowing that one day they too get to be The Birthday Fairy for their own kids, that makes them uphold the plot. Like, we’re all part of this: “Secret Society of The Birthday Fairy” – bound by belief, trust, and keeping our eyes closed even when we hear her, as not to scare the magic away.
Tomorrow morning, Lucia (turning 13) will come into my bedroom with the gift bag that the birthday fairy left at the foot of her bed.
She will not-so-gently shake-wake me:
“Mom! Mom! She came!”
And I’ll groggily open my eyes way-too early, and feign anger and frustration that that TWAT Fairy stole one of my hidden gifts and gave it prematurely, without even asking permission (jerk).
Lucia will laugh for the 10th year-in-a-row at my frustration, and ask if she can open it anyway…
And the other two kids, and the tortoise, and the dog, will also drift into the room to see what gift the Birthday Fairy stole from mom to unjustly get gift-giving credit. And we’ll “oooo” and “aaahhhh” over something unexpected…. Something she didn’t ask for, or never thought she’d get.
This year it’s a Penny Board, white. With a painting of roses on the underbelly that look like an uber-cool tattoo, that she'll proudly carry underside-up, whilst wearing yellow-camo, skater-boy pants (she’ll get those later in the day). It might not help her get into college, but it's all been planned-out and seems just as important.
As always, the Birthday Day is off to a good start when the Birthday Fairy kicks it off.
Transforming into The Birthday Fairy 3 times per year is my steadfast reminder that as easy as it is to make up imaginary shit about how inadequate and unworthy I am – “I could be a better mom, a better daughter, a better wife, a better friend, more altruistic, more successful,” more whatever – I’m also only ever one thought away from being a f@cking, magical, kick-ass, Birthday-Fairy-Mom (and it’s so awesome that I don’t even have to get the credit.)
I also get to make up that I’m a total dick when I feel the delight as I hear my kids tell their friends about The Birthday Fairy…
“What?! We don’t have a Birthday Fairy.”
“No. Where do you get one?"
“I don’t know. She just comes.”
HA! My kid has a Birthday Fairy.
And it’s me. Tee f@cking hee.
How cool is that!? It’s just a hair-thin line between “I suck,” and “I’m a fairy” - all it takes is desire, imagination, a ladder, and wine (optional) - to make the world a bit more magical.