Every so often, magic reveals itself in this world. You can catch it here and there, if you know how to look.
This is a story of theft and destruction, but it’s also the story of magic and of neighborly generosity right here in Wallingford.
Late last December, 16 year old Wallingford resident, Julia (@the_fairy_gardener on TikTok) was returning home from a family ski trip when she saw darkness in the place where twinkling lights usually surrounded her fairy garden. As she approached, Julia found strands of broken lights dangling from the trees. Moving in closer, she discovered that the entire garden was gone – 16 fairy houses and so many fairies, acquired lovingly in Easter baskets and birthday requests – completely wiped out. Julia was devastated. She felt violated and angry with so many questions about why anyone would do this. With no motive or explanation within reach, and as an outlet to her grief, Julia filmed an incredibly raw Tik Tok video. She has made many TikToks since, about the garden and about her beloved family bunnies. In one video, she addresses the fairy thief directly, telling them that they stole the hope of children, the entrance to a magic world and even, her heart.
In the aftermath of vandalism and theft, Julia’s mom posted on her personal facebook page and a discussion started on a Wallingford community page. The community wanted to do something. Julia and her family created an Amazon Wishlist containing fairies, houses and accessories. Soon, packages started to arrive — from Julia’s 8th grade math teacher, from her parent’s friends, from neighbors, and from perfect strangers. Julia told me that when the packages began to arrive, she was still numb and detached from the experience. She would open the packages joylessly, still feeling the violation of theft and destruction. Then it suddenly it clicked with her –a person or two did something terrible, but at least 30 people including accountants, teachers and Wallingford families pitched in to make it right. The community was showing up in a big way and it slowly helped her to look at the future with hope rather than sadness. Julia started thinking about rebuilding the fairy garden.
People cautioned Julia to this time, place the garden in her backyard, away from the street and public access, but Julia knew for sure that this was the wrong path – “It’s for the community”, she told me.
The fairy garden began during the pandemic as a way to bring joy to neighbors when we were all in the thick of quarantine and social distancing. Julia thought specifically of children whose daycares had been closed due to COVID-19 protocol. She wanted to give them a place to walk and something to see. “It loses it’s magic if you take it away from the community”. The garden was a labor of love and so much of the magic was found in watching from her dad’s office window as dozens of people strolled by, crouching down to greet the fairies. Julia would write little challenges out on a white board, “Can you find the house with a strawberry on it?”. Her fairy garden became a neighborhood destination in a pandemic environment when so much had been lost. It was a reminder of hope and goodness.
Remembering the value of the fairy garden, Julia pushed through her sadness and began to clean out the destruction, move things around and bring out the newly acquired fairy houses. The more than 30 houses that now take residence in the fairy garden will never replace the special fairies and houses that were taken, including some of especially high value from her grandmother, but the new houses give Julia a chance to build something new. The sting of violation is soothed by the balm of generosity, and this neighborly spirit is the true magic that has allowed Julia and her family to rebuild this small enchanted world right here in Wallingford, right on the street where it can delight and intrigue all who pass by and need a little spark of wonder in their lives.
We all need a little magic, and for Julia, the magic that came right on the heels of heartbreak will shape her worldview for years to come. Wander up Eastern Avenue between 46th and 50th and catch a big of magic yourself!