Grandmother was a kind old woman who lived in a small house near the woods. She lived in the house all alone for her husband had died many years ago. She found joy in all the small things of life, but tending her garden was her favorite thing to do to pass the time.
Now Grandmother’s garden was not like other gardens tended by other old women. In fact, it was very special. It was special because living within it, among the many flowers and aromatic plants, was a fairy. The fairy’s name was Lily.
Grandmother did not realize it, but Lily helped her plants grow tall and beautiful every spring and summer. Every day, the little fairy would fly unseen between the dancing flowers, lush leaves, and sheltering bushes, sprinkling magic on them to make them grow.
The reason Grandmother never saw Lily was because when the old woman would go out in the mornings and the evenings to water the plants and weed the flower beds, Lily would fly high above her head and land on the top of her wide-brimmed hat. When Grandmother tended to her plants, she would often talk to herself. Not only did she talk to keep herself company, but she also talked to make the plants feel at home.
Lily liked to listen to Grandmother talk because she thought Grandmother told the best stories.
Now, in the fall and winter, when the plants in the garden would wither and sleep, when no flowers ever grew and Grandmother seldom went outside, Lily would sneak inside the old woman’s small house. She would watch her hard at work at cleaning house, or mending clothes, or cooking.
On the coldest nights, when the wind would blow from the north, Grandmother would shiver in her bed, and Lily would come out from whatever hiding place she’d found that day. Sprinkling magic, she would make sure the old woman’s fire would burn long into the night. Then, because it was often late and she was tired from hiding all day, Lily would make her bed in the old woman’s long, silver hair, and sleep until the early hours of the morning.
This went on for a long time. But as time passed, Grandmother grew older and frailer still until she was no longer able to work in the garden at all. Each day when she was finished with her chores inside the house, which began to take longer and longer, Grandmother would sit on a little bench just outside the door of her home. She continued to talk to the plants and continued to tell her stories. And Lily continued to sprinkle magic on the garden and to listen to Grandmother’s stories.
The winter was a sad time for Grandmother. The flowers in the garden would wilt, the fragrant bushes and other plants lost their aroma and their leaves, and the harsh weather kept her inside for days at a time. One particularly blustery day, snow began to fall. Even Lily’s magic was not enough to keep the house comfortably warm, and cozy, and Grandmother soon became ill.
Unconcerned with staying hidden, Lily took care of the old woman as best as she could. As the snow melted and she was able to venture out into the woods, Lily brought back what food she could to Grandmother. Sometimes she had to fly very far and when she retuned her wings would ache and she would lay beside the old woman, curled up in her silver hair, and together they would sleep the day away.
At last, the sickness seemed to pass.
One day, after Lily returned from the woods, she found Grandmother out in the garden. The sunlight set the old woman’s silver hair gleaming and there was a peaceful smile on her face as Lily settled gently on her shoulder. The old woman’s gnarled hands were covered with soil and where she knelt on the ground, there was a small pile of weeds.
“This garden is special to me,” the old woman said. “My husband, when he was living, planted all these flowers when we wed. I was so happy and together we lived a good life. Now that he is gone, I thought I had only my flowers. Our children grew and moved far away, and they do not visit. For a long time, I was very lonely, but I understand now that I was never alone. You were here with me, little one.”
“Yes.” Lily said, clutching the woman’s silver hair. “Your garden is beautiful. I like living here and I like hearing your stories.”
“I am glad,” the woman said, reaching up and patting the fairy’s head with one gnarled finger, “and I am sorry that I will leave you just as my husband once left me. But you mustn’t be sad, little one. For wherever there are flowers, I am there as well…and if you listen closely enough, you will hear me. Telling you stories, as I always have.”
The two of them spent their time in garden after that. Grandmother would pull the weeds and Lily would sprinkle magic and they shared many stories with each other before the setting of the sun. When the time for sleeping came, Lily was too frightened to close her eyes and the old woman smiled.
“Do not be frightened. I am simply going to another garden elsewhere, dear child. There will be many flowers, more beautiful than you can ever imagine.”
“But I want to go with you.” Lily protested, clutching the woman’s hair. “I am small and quiet; I promise I won’t take up much room.”
As she had that morning as they worked side by side, Grandmother patted Lily gently on the head, and with her last words, said, “My child, there will always be room in my garden for you.”
So it was that the old woman passed away.
Grandmother’s children came and buried her among the bushes and flowers she had loved throughout her life and when they left, Lily was left alone. She could not bring herself to leave the small house by the woods where she had spent many happy moments with Grandmother in her garden.
The old house remained empty and soon came to ruin, but those that lived in the area told stories of a magnificent garden that never died. No matter what time of the year it was, or how hard the rain fell. No matter how cold the wind blew or how deep the snow became, the garden that held Grandmother’s resting place always remained covered in rich, fragrant flowers.
Some even said it was magic.
Copyright © J.S. White