I used to believe in fairies. But not just in the way that most children do, like a belief in Father Christmas, I believed in fairies with real, unrelenting intensity. I would think about them a lot. I had my own fairy called Hellibore who lived in my garden (looking after the Hellibores) and we wrote letters to each other. I received letters from garden fairies, and Christmas tree fairies, and flower fairies but my most precious were from Helli. I used to ask her if I could ever see her in real life. I would imagine her coming to my window and talking to my from the window sill. I would leave her juice and chocolate and crumbs in cups and plates from my Playmobile doll's house. My heart would skip a beat when I came back to see that there were little bite marks in the chocolate and the juice had been drunk.
Every time I went into the garden I would look for Helli. I would wait for her where she had left her letters and I would look in the little fairy house I had to see if she had made a home. She would write back in her letters that she was very busy looking after the flowers in the garden and didn't have time to see me. I hoped that one day I'd catch her on a leaf, or wandering around the flower beds. I looked and looked.
On walks in woods where there were particularly mossy areas, or little nooks in trees, I was convinced that fairies lived there. I was careful not to step into fairy rings for fear of being trapped in fairy world, but part of me always wanted to know what would happen if I put my foot into a circle of mushrooms.
Once we went to visit my cousins in Germany and we went for a walk round a lake. My sister, my cousin and I were on a hunt for fairies and in particular sprites in the water. For a very long time I was sure that I had seen one flitting about amongst the pebbles. I felt immensely proud that I had finally got a glimpse. When we got back to my cousins' house we spent hours making a little house and space for some fairies to visit, and then we read out a spell to make them come and left some chocolate.
I can't remember when I had to try and convince myself that Helli was still real. I think I had written a letter that she hadn't replied to. I wrote a few more and heard nothing. I would check on my window sill everyday, and then every so often, and then occasionally when I had time to remember. Eventually I went crying one night to my mum to admit to her that the feeling had gone, that the magic had gone, that the fairies weren't real anymore. I made her tell me that I was right but it was a few years before she finally admitted who had actually written the letters.
When I recall the feeling of losing this belief it still saddens me. I was heartbroken not to have something so completely wonderful anymore. I had lost something I had loved. Why couldn't I just make myself believe?
I still have every single fairy letter kept in a box in my room at home. I think it's at the top of a list of things that I would save from a fire. I don't know where my mum got the special paper from with the small flowers pressed into it but I do know that she never wrote them, she never lied about that.
Sometimes when I go on walks now I can't help myself from seeing rings of small flowers, or mossy patches amongst tree roots and thinking that fairies might live there or, at least, it would be an excellent place for them to dwell. Sometimes in my garden I will go to spots that are incredibly evocative of the times I spent searching for and thinking of Helli and for short moments I will wonder if she's still there.
I think my parents' decision to let me have this little world and embellish it, letting it run its course naturally, was the sweetest and loveliest thing they could do. But I want to say more than "sweet" and "lovely" because it meant so much more than that to me. My fairy world was completely and utterly real and it brought me excitement and joy and a feeling of love. I think I gained a lot from my untamed, young imagination by letting it grow and blur lines between the real and the surreal. I think I can use what I gained in my life as an adult, I just haven't yet worked out what.