NORFOLK, Va. – With the coronavirus lockdown and school out for the summer, 9-year-old Maya Gebler’s social world had shrunk to her immediate family and a few friends.
When her human pen pals stopped writing, she turned to the fairies who had taken up residence at a tree in her Virginia neighborhood. And the fairies wrote back.
“They care about you,” she said. "And they want to write to you.”
Beneath a crape myrtle at the edge of a lawn in Norfolk lies a fairy village. A sign on a small wooden door shaped like a slice of bread lets visitors know fairies are sleeping behind the smooth bark. Tiny buildings with mushroom spires and flowers line the sidewalk below.
Perhaps just as important are the cedar tables and chairs, the paper and the pens. One mailbox, often brimming with envelopes, welcomes correspondence. Another offers responses from the likes of the Fairy Godmother, Fairy Queen Lysandra and Tinker Bell.
The fairy tree village appeared in July outside the home of journalist and children’s book author Lisa Suhay, 55, a mother of five. Word spread online and now youngsters arrive wearing pixie wings or princess gowns and a website connects children who live farther away.
In the past few months, more than 700 letters have arrived — from neighborhood children but also from nearby cities such as Virginia Beach. Not a small number appear to be from students at Old Dominion University, a state school down the street.
For some, the letters offer a reprieve from days stuck at home and in virtual school. They also provide something much deeper — a therapeutic opportunity for wishing, confessing and venting.