For me, one of the best parts of being a mum is passing down treasured family fairy tales and traditions.
I remember going out walking with my Mum – I must have been younger than my girls are now – when she spotted some of these pretty purple flowers peeping out from the plants on the side of the footpath (it took me nearly 40 years to discover these are actually periwinkles!).
I remember her picking one, and holding it out to me.
‘Did you know these flowers are where the fairies keep their toothbrushes?’ she asked me, and my mouth dropped open. ‘Where?’ I asked, peering under the star-shaped petals.
I watched, enthralled, as Mum broke open the flower, and carefully peeled back the petals…
Right in the very centre was a teensy stick, with a furry white crown. ‘See?’ Mum asked, ‘there’s the fairy’s toothbrush.’
I could actually picture the fairies wrapping their tiny hands around the handle, and polishing their itty-bitty teeth with the soft pillow-like tip. Can’t you?
For years – well into adulthood – I’d pick these flowers when I saw them, and peel them open to reveal the fairy toothbrush inside.
A few months ago I was walking with my girls when I spotted a cluster of periwinkles. I plucked three, and handed the girls one each, keeping one for myself. ‘When I was your age my Mummy showed me something very special about these flowers,’ I told them. ‘And before that her Daddy – your great-Grandad – told it to her.’
They watched curiously as I peeled open the bloom, just as my Mum had done for me nearly 40 years before: ‘Can you see that?’ I asked, and they crowded around, staring down into my cupped hand.
‘That’s a fairy toothbrush,’ I told them, and they both gasped.
I helped them both to open their flowers and find the toothbrush buried inside. ‘Are they really for fairies?’ they asked, and I shrugged. ‘Well, I don’t know for sure as I haven’t actually seen a fairy,’ I replied, ‘but I don’t know what else could be small enough to use them… ‘
One day they’ll realise the ‘toothbrushes’ are more a curious design of nature, rather than dental essentials for a mythical flying creature, but until that moment I plan to keep the botanical magic alive.
And one day I hope to see them plucking the purple blooms for their own children, and hear the words: ‘Did you know these flowers are where the fairies keep their toothbrushes..?’
Do you have any favourite family fairy tales or traditions? I’d love to hear them.