Soul Food: A Soup Faerie's Story
I remember the crisp air that stung my chest as I inhaled, and the steam that came back out when I exhaled. The change that occurred with that small breath of air in front of me seemed almost as magical as the atmosphere I had stepped into on the morning of a very memorable day. Large icicles dangled off of tree limbs, almost as if nature was trying to create its own chandeliers, and it was working well with the morning sun shimmering through the ice. On top of that, the houses and structures in Faerieland were blanketed with snow and adorned with whimsical lights and decorations that represented the day ahead.
The Day of Giving for the citizens of Faerieland is not much different from any ordinary day in our area. We faeries are generous creatures who are always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, and aim random acts kindness in every direction. On this particular Day of Giving, though, I was not aware of the true meaning behind the holiday. I was simply mesmerized by the sights and activities going on around me, which was to be expected from a faerie who was just a few years old.
"Sweetheart, are you ready? We need to leave before the crowd hits Faerie City!" My mother's voice chirped pleasantly from inside of our home. I was, of course, way ahead of her; I had my scarf wrapped around my neck gently, with my little nose and cheeks nestled up against the warm fabric, and my tiny hands were kept cozy in the gloves my mother had knitted herself. I whimpered a little to get her attention, not wanting to track any dirt or snow on our floor since I had already stepped outside. "There you are! I thought you were still getting dressed! Glad to see you're up bright and early!"
"Of course, Mama! I'm so excited!" My mother smiled at me, hearing the energy in my voice which was slightly muffled by my scarf. I knew exactly where we were going and was very eager to get there as soon as possible, so she made sure that's exactly what happened.
I was absorbed in the sights and the feelings of the holiday by the time I realized how much time had passed since we left our home. When I snapped out of my trance, I found myself standing almost directly under the largest pine tree in Faerieland, placed in the very center of Faerie City. I always appreciated the lights and decorations around my home, but the faeries and neopets of Faerieland made sure to give this tree some special treatment every year. I could see the reflection of my wispy brown hair in the many round ornaments dangling from the tree, and my eyes seemed to be dancing with the colorful lights flickering rhythmically in front of me. The shiny things did not keep my attention for long, though; my childish mind knew exactly what it wanted.
Boxes upon boxes had been neatly placed under the large tree -- gifts for the expecting citizens of Faerieland -- and I knew one of them had my name written all over it. My mother wandered off to a table not far from where I was at, and I began my hunt for my yearly gift from the Faerie Queen herself. She always accepted the responsibility of picking out one gift for everyone. "What an awesome queen!" I squealed under my breath when I finally found my gift. It was a decently sized box, not too big or too small, and I could feel the excitement building up in my little body, almost to the point where I could've shot a thousand feet into the air if it wasn't for the fact that my bright yellow wings hadn't grown enough yet to support that kind of a distance.
Hardly paying attention to where I was going or who I was running into to get there, I ran towards my mother. I could tell it was her because she was the only faerie who chose to wore tiny brown sandals in this chilly weather. My head shot up to look at her; she was talking to the town's eldest faerie, a woman who for some reason would go out of her way to hand out food to people no matter what kind of day she was having. I disregarded the fact that my mother was talking to her, removed the scarf from my mouth, and loudly proclaimed, "Look, Mama! Look at what I got!" My fingers could barely pry the wrapping paper apart, so I had to take one of my gloves off with my teeth and tear the present open with my bare hand...
Every ounce of excitement left my body when I set eyes on my gift... not to mention my bare hand suddenly felt chilled from the wind. My jaw dropped, letting my handmade glove drop to the ground, as I picked up and unfolded a plain blue apron from the gift box. Under the apron was a red polka-dotted bandana and a small pendant, along with a folded piece of paper. I slowly picked up the glove I had dropped, sat down on a stump next to the table I had rushed anxiously towards just a few moments ago, and unfolded the paper.
"My tiny faerie, you are growing up so fast. I remember meeting you when you were just a couple of years old, and your wings were barely sprouting from your back. They looked like tiny little leaves popping out of a tree sprout. Now you are turning into what could be compared to a healthy tree with a strong trunk, standing proudly and capable of doing things we can't see with our own eyes. You may not understand it yet, but I know you will be a generous faerie and a help to your community when you are older. I want you to have what once belonged to me. You and I aren't very different."
The note was not written in the Faerie Queen's handwriting, and was signed by none other than the elderly woman my mother was talking to before. I glanced up sheepishly at them, as they had both gone completely silent to stare at me.
"Come here, child," the old faerie groaned in her raspy, worn voice, "and I'll help you to understand the meaning of my gift." I placed the items I had taken out of the box back into it and tiptoed towards her. I knew to treat her with respect, as my mother had told me for many years what she has been doing for Faerieland and its neighboring areas for many years. "Don't be shy! I won't eat you!" She laughed as heartily as she could as I crawled onto her lap, sat on her knee, and stared down at the fabric on her worn out apron. "Now child, take that pendant out of that box and look at it. Tell me what you see."
I did as I was told, and gazed at it for a few moments. It was just a tiny mirror with a golden frame around it, hanging from a golden chain. "I only see myself, ma'am. It's a mirror." The woman carefully grasped my hands, which were still holding onto the pendant, and tilted them a little. She asked me again what I saw. "Now I see you in the mirror."
"The mirror represents something very important, my dear. Never forget who you are. I wore this pendant every day after my grandmother gave it to me on the last day I saw her. It was also the Day of Giving that day, and she told me the same thing I'm telling you. I used to be a simple girl, a girl who was lucky enough to have the clothes on her back. One day, after realizing that I couldn't have everything I wanted in the world, I decided what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to help those who aren't fortunate to have luxuries like Faerie Queen Dolls and millions of neopoints at least live comfortable lives. I already knew I could make great food, so I began handing out food to the citizens of Faerieland whenever I got the chance. At first I thought, if I can't be happy then I can at least make everyone else happy, but knowing that I've helped out a lot of faeries and neopets makes me feel so good inside."
Suddenly, the message clicked in my mind. I moved the pendant towards me again and stared into it. I might've had a home, but it was in a hollowed out tree that my family and a few other faeries had put a lot of effort towards making it seem more like a home. Before then, we stayed with other faeries on good days and had to make do with what nature provided for us on the bad days just so we could say we had shelter. The memory of who we stayed with came to the front of my mind as well: it was the woman who held me in her lap at that very moment. I tilted the pendant slightly and saw her smiling, knowing that the message of the gift had become very clear to me. She was right, though. We had a lot in common, and I didn't realize it until that day.
"Thank you. I really understand everything now!" Even I noticed the change of tone in my voice. It still had that lighthearted, childish ring to it, but somehow it sounded more mature. I knew I had grown up a little that day, and the gift I received on that Day of Giving was the greatest I could've ever received.
"Hey, Mom, check this out! I got a new Usuki doll!" I felt a very powerful shove from a tiny faerie as she ran into my leg, before she twirled around, gave me a quick "Sorry, miss faerie lady!" and ran towards her mother who was standing in a very long line. The line was assembled in front of a familiar long table, which was next to a familiar tall tree in the center of Faerie City.
After nodding at the child, reassuring her that everything was okay and I didn't mind her mistake, I glanced towards the tree for a second. The reflection of the flashing lights in my eyes took me on a nostalgic trip to the memory of a day that meant so much to me. I pulled my beloved golden mirror pendant out from under my apron, looked into it for a moment, and whispered something before letting go and grabbing my large soup spoon. I poured a hearty serving of cornupepper soup into a bowl held by a very thankful faerie before she floated away to let the next faerie get a serving of soup.
I whispered again as a tiny puff of steam rolled off of my lips in the same magical way it did on a previous Day of Giving... "Thank you. I really understand everything now!"