One of my favorite stories from the pandemic. Published in The Register-Guard in 2021.
Once upon a time, there was an inquisitive little girl named Cece Bruce who lives with her family in the south hills of Eugene.
The 5-and-three-quarters-year-old at the heart of our story has a fascination with rocks but also wants to study sharks and dinosaur bones when she grows up.
Other characters include a generous neighbor and residents of a neighborhood trying to make the best of things in the middle of a global pandemic that threatened the community and forced many changes.
Sadly, as fairy tales often do, the story also reveals the dark side of human nature.
But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
When the shutdown hit, Cece began taking long walks through her neighborhood to pass the time with the aforementioned family members — father Gavin Bruce; mother Suzie; sister Josie (Jojo); and dog Daisy, an 8-month-old Great Dane-poodle mix. The walks became a daily ritual.
During one of these outings, Cece stopped at a rock bench along the route to examine small stones spread around the base. This led to a discovery: Hidden from view on the backside of one of the stone legs was a tiny 5-inch high door with mushrooms forming a path on either side. Intrigued, Cece brought along her microscope the next day for a closer look.
This activity did not go unnoticed.
A few days after the discovery a beautiful crystalline stone appeared on the bench along with a note. It was a letter of introduction from a fairy who went by the name of Pip. Trips to the bench became the highlight of the family’s day. A friendship with the elusive fairy blossomed.
As winter turned to spring and then summer, “Everything went crazy at Pip’s house,” said Cece. In addition to notes and pretty stones, the area around the bench soon included a tiny house, a table with tiny food items, a stream with a bridge over it and a street light that looked like a mushroom.
“I was really shocked,” said Cece. The fairy and the little girl spent the rest of the year exchanging notes in chalk on the top of the bench like, “How are you?” And “Happy summer.” Soon, other families in the neighborhood began paying visits to the fairy village.
Then, one day, tragedy struck. The fairy village was gone. Only a few items remained, strewn about as if left behind in haste. And there was a note.
“Someone took the fairy’s house, big mushroom and many other things. Fairies are hiding in the forest while they ponder …” it read.
Cece was devastated. Tears flowed. “I was really sad,” she said. “Pip is like part of my family. My fairy friend.”
During a recent visit to the scene of the crime, Cece pointed out the location of the missing items from memory. A tiny Airstream-like trailer there and a table here. Nothing remained of what was once a thriving fairy village except the door and a small window, both fixed solidly to the rock.
While sad, Cece is working on a theory about the disappearance. She believed the alleged thief could have been an ogre, a troll or a coyote.
Her father, who is a federal prosecutor in Eugene, has his own theory, but for now the family prefers to put their energy behind empathy for Pip.
Gavin Bruce does, however, want whoever is behind the thoughtless act to know that the damage goes far beyond the disappearance of a few trinkets.
“In a very trying time, it was something she looked forward to every day,” he said. “As a father, I was struck with sadness and anger that someone would do that.”
Pointing to the bench, he added, “This meant the world to my daughter, and I want them to see the impact of what they have done.”
As for the young heroine of our story? Cece misses her friend Pip and hopes the fairy rebuilds someday. During a recent visit, she left a fairy-sized note on the bench. It read. “Dear Pip, I am sorry someone stole your house, Love Cece.”
Update: Take heart dear readers: The story may yet have a happy ending. When Cece went on her walk a few days after the story was published, a new, tiny fairy house was waiting for her in the shadow of the stone bench.