In the minds of seven year olds, butterfly fairies are real and they really do visit when they cup their hands over their eyes. While listening to the legend of the fairy kingdom, Hannah helps recount the details with Miss Sama. The teacher’s eyes light up as she requests the help of the fifteen kids sitting criss cross applesauce in front of her. They immediately jump up from their carpet squares that are strewn with woodchips and smile at each other. They walk single file past the stream and the native plants growing back just past the path boundaries. They are on a mission.
“No peeking,” Hannah warns, a small smile concealing her breath. She places the miniature note on the tree branch, one she knows the kids can reach without too much trouble.
“The fairy can only send us a message if you don’t peek,” Miss Sama reminds them, taking note of troublemaker Oliver’s dark eyelashes fluttering through a gap in his fingers. Finally, Hannah asks them to open their eyes and they clamor to be the person to read the note to the rest of the kids. Angelica, a tall camper with sparkly barrettes, stumbles through the note’s small writing. She inhales sharply, then tells the rest of the patient group that the fairy has indeed asked for their help to make fairy houses and save the kingdom. The group rejoices at the good news. Amid all of the joyous exclamations, Hannah notices one boy not partaking in the festivities. Shayan stalks off with his arms folded across his chest. He is a small raven haired boy wearing the t-shirt he got that morning that says “Environmental Nature Center” with a cartoon frog underneath. A collared shirt pokes out from under the purple camp shirt.
“What’s wrong, Shayan?” Hannah asks, her eyebrows furrowed in concern.
“I know a fairy didn’t bring that note,” he pouts. Although it seems like the boy is complaining about nothing, Hannah realizes that he’s just upset that he can poke holes in something he used to believe.
“It’s okay to not believe,” she admits to the confused boy. “I just want you to know that I believe in the fairy. I’ve seen her. She’s more beautiful than you can even imagine.”
“Really?” his face lights up for a moment, and then he remembers to be stoic. “Oh, I don’t know…”
He smiles bravely then returns back to the group that is in the midst of gathering leaves for their fairy houses. Hannah and the other camp counselors ready the hot glue guns and other arts and crafts supplies. There are buttons, plastic toys, and other leftovers to choose from for decoration. At this place, everything is recycled or reused to be made into something else. Andrew, a smiley eight-year-old wearing a fire truck t-shirt, approaches Hannah. He twists his hands around the hem of his shirt in a nervous way.
“So there was this girl last year at camp…” he begins, then looks around, unsure of the end of his sentence. “Uh, I had a lot of fun with her and she was my camp counselor.” He eyes Hannah suspiciously. “And her name was Hannah.” He waits, silent and hopeful.
“Yes, Andrew, of course I remember you. We did have fun,” she admits, appreciating his smile that grows bigger and bigger. With a squeak-like noise, he rushes toward his older mentor, his arms wrapping around her. She kneels down to his height so his arms can wrap around her shoulders instead of just her legs. She lets out a small laugh.
“I missed you, too.”
On the very last day of nature camp, the mood is joyous up until the final moments when the kids part with their older friend. Hannah shoulders off her red emergency backpack and doles out last hugs and promises to see them again when school lets out. Angela and Hope compete for her affections one last time as they both clasp Hannah’s hands.
“Guys, I have to hug everyone,” Hannah laughs nervously. In the training manual, proper procedure dictates that no “favorites” be shown to the other kids.
As her last campers wave their last goodbyes, Hannah realizes that maybe they like her so much because she doesn’t try to distance herself from them. There wasn’t an imaginary line drawn in the dirt separating the mature and responsible adult from the girl that subscribes to the magical world. And when one kid saw her walls come down, the rest of the kids took notice, too.