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In a pandemic fairy tale, a garden leads to a magical friendship

Kelly Kenney was walking around late at night clearing her thoughts in her Los Angeles neighborhood this spring when a colorful pinwheel caught her eye. She stopped and found herself gazing at an elaborate fairy garden at the foot of a tree, with painted rocks and tiny knickknacks.

A Polaroid photo of the creator of the garden, a 4 year old girl named Eliana, was pinned to the tree and a poem using a medieval-looking storybook font explaining to her neighbors how to use the garden: girl did this to brighten up your day / Please add to the magic, but don’t take away / These days can be tough, but we are together / So enjoy our fairy garden and more pleasant weather. “

Ms Kenney hatched a plan, and the following night she left a note in the garden posing as a fairy named Sapphire, named after Ms Kenney’s birthstone in September, who made her home in the tree. . She promised that she would leave some sparkling magical resin dice (a pandemic hobby for Ms. Kenney) if Eliana completed three tasks she listed that were etched in cuteness. And the next day, they were done.

The note sparked a fairy garden friendship that would last through some of the darkest months of the pandemic and the hardships of 2020 for a little girl and her adult neighbor. Ms. Kenney recounted the experience in a very popular Twitter thread this month.

“I felt like when I found it the whole family got stuck in my heart,” Ms. Kenney, a photographer, said of the Fairy Garden. “I was so lonely back then, physically and mentally, and I felt like these people were kindred spirits.

Eliana made the fairy garden on April 28 using materials from her grandmother. The garden started with fairy-sized doors on the tree, a couple of fairies and a gnome. He grew up with contributions from neighbors, like a tiny purple vanity with a quote from “The Lord of the Rings” inside, said Eliana’s mother, Emily Pauls.

Ms Kenney found a new purpose as she went through a tough breakup orchestrating elaborate notes and photoshopping herself like a little fairy next to her cat, Nova. She gave Eliana’s parents her phone number, to reassure them, when the letters became more frequent.

She brainstormed some imaginative gift box ideas to leave behind, with the goal of making them better than the previous ones. Ms Kenney tapped into what she said she loved as a child and texted Ms Pauls for help.

Mrs. Kenney gave Eliana a stuffed pig and a goat; a pop-up version of one of his favorite childhood books, “The Little Prince”; and Crayola markers with paper to keep Eliana from emptying her parents’ paper supply when she draws.

As a child, Ms. Kenney said, she was bullied because of the way her creative personality manifested itself. She was ashamed, and it wasn’t until later in life, with the support of her uncle, that she regained her imaginative side.

Noticing that she and Eliana had similar personalities, Ms. Kenney wanted to nurture Eliana’s creative inspiration and be a positive influence on her, something she had missed growing up.

Eliana’s parents also found out that she had changed in the past nine months. Thanks to Sapphire’s encouragement, she was becoming more imaginative and kind at a time when she needed a role model since the pandemic interrupted her preschool year.

Ms. Kenney encouraged Eliana to write stories, which led to “Sapphire the Explorer”. It included illustrations and a song that only fairies can sing (and read). Ms. Pauls helped punctuation and turn her text into pages.

Eliana often thought of Sapphire and wrote to her, asking her what fairy skin looked like and what Sapphire possessed. Ms Pauls said Eliana would pick up things like a stone and think about how Sapphire could use it as a table or dream of ways to catch the fairy.

“She had never seen me before, but this relationship that we have is definitely love,” Ms. Kenney said of Eliana. “She’s just as magical to me.”

Then the adventure met with a twist. Ms Pauls let Ms Kenney know in mid-November that they had closed a house in South Los Angeles and would be moving to the West Side, leaving the neighbors to take care of the Fairy Garden.

Ms Pauls asked Ms Kenney to help support Eliana, who was struggling to cope with the move. Ms Kenney told Eliana in a letter that she will also be moving – from the garden to a larger tree for Sapphire and her growing cat.

“Sometimes we get too big for houses because we have too much love and need a place where we can hold everything,” Ms. Kenney wrote. “But it’s so much fun to find new trees and imagine what new adventures await!”

Eliana’s mother and Ms Kenney were planning to meet as the family said goodbye to their neighborhood on December 11. Ms Kenney and Eliana’s parents were tested for the coronavirus a few days earlier in an effort to make sure the visit was safe. In another letter, Ms Kenney hinted to Eliana that she would come for her last belongings and that the fairies grow human-sized when they move around.

Dressed in character, with pointy fairy ears, Mrs. Kenney walked over to the tree and, as she rummaged in the garden, pretended to appear surprised by Eliana. But Eliana was the one who was stunned and overcome with emotion. Mrs. Kenney crouched down and they started chatting about Nova the Cat and fairy life.

“Each time, it was always that sweet, sweet moment when I felt so strangely known to the stranger,” Ms. Pauls said of the letters. “Through all of this exchange, she has become a family in a way. It’s a really unexpected way to find a friend. “

Ms. Kenney continues to bring magic to Eliana through letters and video chats. But there is more to be found when Eliana creates another fairy garden in her new home, and hopefully another fairy will move in there.

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