Olivia is a science kid, into hard facts and non-fiction books. But her mom’s mom — they call her “Gramma Carrot” — likes to tell her stories about faeries and their secret world.
The garden slowly grew, bit by bit, tiny toadstool by ribbon-wrapped stick.
It was a fantasy escape for 7-year-old Olivia. In this year full of big things, the little things seem to matter even more.
Then, on a Saturday morning in August, Olivia’s mom, Rachel, walked outside and noticed the faerie garden was gone.
Someone had stolen it in the night. All of it.
“My thought,” says Rachel, a music teacher at Folwell and Churchill elementaries, “was ‘One more point for 2020; one less point for us.’”
Something, though, sparked a response.
Rachel (a classical musician) texted her dad (English major and poet) and her brother (JRR Tolkien enthusiast). The three of them started writing, well, a Medieval proclamation. In verse.
“Something rotten in the State of Slatterly,” it began.
“A family of faeries and gnomes/A garden of toadstools and jewels,” it read in part. “STOLEN! A human girl of seven years curses you! The wrath of a human mother is upon you!”
Rachel posted it on the Slatterly Park section of Nextdoor, the nationwide app with a neighborhood focus. Didn’t think any more about it.
Then came the responses.
Some were Medieval poems. Some were private messages with people’s stories about how tough this year has been. And how they wanted to help someone else out.
Then came the gnomes. The toadstools. The tiny wooden benches.
Items showed up overnight. The seashells and starfish placed around their tree. Fancy fake flowers. The tiny treasure chest.
Some people called ahead.
“Two gentlemen and a lady contacted me to see if they could drop off a few gifts,” says Rachel. “I said ‘sure.’”
The men delivered tiny faerie houses and a tiny bridge. The woman — carrying her newborn, named “Olivia” — donated items from her own garden.
The visitors didn’t know Rachel or her family.
They didn’t, it turns out, even know each other. They had met in the comments section of Rachel’s Nextdoor post.
“We spent a lovely morning chatting, watching Liv put her new garden together, and just basking in the fact that people are still good,” says Rachel.
Within a week, Olivia’s Faerie Garden was filled with tiny animals. Tiny treasure chests. A faerie house with tiny working solar panels.
A small sign that reads “Gnome sweet gnome.” A small sign that reads “Hope.”
And — now hanging in Olivia’s room — a scroll, hand-delivered by neighbors and hand-lettered “To Miss Liv, the tiny human queen of this dwelling.”
“We’ve sent you this letter/in hopes you’ll feel better,” it reads, in part. “Along with some magic to add to your garden.”
It’s signed “With all our love, The Super Secret Protection Agency Of The Magic Faerie Garden Society.”
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.