October 1, 2020

My Fairy Sister, by Lee Gaitan


Editor’s note: This tender, sweet, funny delight of an essay grabbed my attention and kept it. I knew as soon as I finished it that it would be published in EC. Enjoy!

My sister was the embodiment of being “in the world, but not of it.” This was largely due to her being a fairy. Doubt her and she’d direct your gaze to the delicately pointed tips of her ears as proof. (Also, she had zero earth signs in her chart, so there was that influence as well.) Consequently, she fairly floated through life, her head perpetually in the clouds, her feet barely skimming the ground beneath them. This enchanted creature, who created extraordinary artwork and crafted inspired verse, frequently had to call me to ask what time it was. Timekeeping, like so many other earthly constructs, was irrelevant to her. A clock? Pfft, what self-respecting celestial being would own a clock?


My bright, beautiful fairy sister had not one practical bone in her body. She had an I.Q. high enough to boil water and a vocabulary that rivaled the Oxford dictionary but was confounded by the mundane details of everyday life. Trying to impress upon her the importance of things like insurance co-pays or car maintenance was a near impossibility. And money management? Hah—good luck with that one! One of the few run-ins we ever had happened the day I walked into her house and found a full-size, commercial-grade color copier sitting in her living room. She had leased it, she said, because it was more convenient than making occasional trips to Copy Express two blocks down the street. After an hour of my ranting, raving, and even resorting to math to convince her how illogical her logic was, she finally agreed to cancel the lease.


This was one of the rare victories I scored against her stubborn fairy reasoning. Her wings may have been spun from gossamer, but her head was rock hard. Her ability to argue that day was night was legendary. Or more to the point, to argue that north was south. She dismissed the concept of cardinal directions altogether. “There is no such thing as this ‘true north,’” she pronounced emphatically. “In Mexico, they call the U.S. north, but in Canada, they say it’s south. It’s all an illusion.”


It was no use trying to explain the difference between cardinal directions and relative locations to her; her mind was made up. I conceded defeat the day I gave her directions by saying, “Take 85 South—”


What?!” she cried, interrupting me. “There is no 85 South. There is only 85 North. I have lived in Atlanta for twenty years, and not once have I ever heard anything about 85 South. It doesn’t exist.”


“Okay,” I said, using the same measured tone hostage negotiators use. “It does in fact exist. Um, think of it this way. If you take 85 North to go somewhere, what do you call it when you turn around to go home?”


“The other way!” she exclaimed in exasperation. “Everyone knows that.”


(Insert head slap.)


Ah, but fairies do not come to teach us down-to-earthlings what we already know. We mortals can pretty much manage driving north and south and even east and west on our own. We need fairies to bring the magic, and my sister brought that to me from the very start. At eight years her junior, I was born literally looking up to her, and she had me at “Peek-a-boo.” One of my earliest memories was her telling me the story of her “birth.” Of course, as a fairy, she explained, she wasn’t so much born into this earthly realm as she was placed upon it. There she was one day, floating happily around the ethers, when an errant breeze blew her slight frame off course and she floated down to earth, landing in our family. (My mother tried to interject something about 34 hours of unmedicated labor into the storyline, but to no avail.)


There wasn’t a corner of my childhood that didn’t have my sister’s fairy dust sprinkled on it. She’d recite a short incantation and—poof—a penny disappeared before my young eyes. (My young closed eyes, but still.) With nothing more than a wig, a bathrobe, and our cousin Jeffrey—poof—she made my imaginary friend Mia Cotts come to life. (Despite noticing Mia’s uncanny resemblance to Jeffrey, I was nonetheless delighted.) And each month when she cut the children’s page from my mother’s magazine and placed it in an envelope addressed to me—poof—I believed Betsy McCall was my personal pen pal.


Later, she taught me about hair and make-up. (And accidentally shaved off my eyebrows, but insisted it was a good look.) She took me to Broadway shows, the ballet, and foreign films. She introduced me to Renaissance art—which I loved—and opera—which I didn’t—and dessert at Serendipity. As adults, we shared countless lunches, shopping trips, and holidays. And storytelling, secret keeping, and hysterical laughing fits, all those invisible, magical ties that bind sister to sister, heart to heart, and soul to soul.


These days the ties between us arch upward to the firmament because my sister has returned there. She was never truly at home in our nuts-and-bolts, brick-and-mortar world, no matter how much I wished it were so. She was stardust and moonglow and all things mysterious, and her spirit begged for release from this terrestrial plane. My cheeks flush with shame when I recall my selfishness, standing at her bedside those final days, imploring her not to leave me. She did not belong to me. She belonged to herself and to the heavenlies from which she came. Accepting that gave me the strength to let her go and allow gratitude to fill the empty space her passing left.


So, fly high and free, my fairy sister. Fly north and south. Your magic burns bright in my heart, and it will light my way until we meet again. 


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Bio: Lee Gaitan is the author of Amazon #1 bestseller My Pineapples Went to Houston, a very funny but inspiring romp through the challenges of her life. The subhead says it all: “Finding the Humor in My Dashed Hopes, Broken Dreams and Plans Gone Outrageously Awry.” She very recently was named a winner of the Nickie’s Prize Writing Competition, and her latest book is Lite Whines and Laughter.


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Image: Sisters, by Frances MacDonald.


9 comments:

Maxine said...

A wonderful tale full of magic and love.

Gina said...

Oh this was lovely, I adored the whimsy of it and wished to know the fairy sister!

Molly said...

I am not ashamed to say that this beautiful piece made me cry. What an honour to have shared part of your mortal life with a wonderful fairy x

Wolfchick3 said...

This essay was AMAZING! As the eldest of two sisters, I related to the petty arguments that made me slap my head, and the love and magic we give each other when it has escaped one of us. And it's a good reminder to let the magic our loved ones left behind help heal the pain their loss brings. Thank you, Lee Gaitan, for this amazing and heartfelt work.

Katew said...

I have four sisters, and this really hit me in the heart.

Katew said...

I teared up, too.

Katew said...

Me too!

Katew said...

Lee did a fantastic job.

Lee Gaitan said...

What lovely comments! Thank you all so much for letting me share the magic of my sister with you. Thanks especially to Kate for publishing this piece! ❤️

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