Several years ago I visited the Fairy Tree Top Nursery for fairy babies, and also met the Fairy Sitters who take care of fairy children, but somehow I had never wondered what happened to the other little FairyLand creatures while their parents were at work. So when Mother Goose gave me an opportunity last fall to tour an Animal Day Care Center, I jumped at the chance. (Sorry it's taken me so long to write it up.)
Under the guidance of Granny Watchful, the Day Care Center occupies a unique position, not only because of its function, but because of its location underneath one of the most unusual trees I have ever seen. I have seen pictures of some pretty odd looking real trees around the world, but never a purple one, although this was, of course, FairyLand, where not everything is what you expect it to be.
Granny was waiting for us.
"So nice to have you visit, Wanna," Granny Watchful said, smiling. "Mother Goose has told me about you and I was wondering when you were going to drop by."
"Well, I would've been here sooner," I said, "but frankly, I have been out of circulation for a while. It does feel good to be out and about again."
At this point, I heard a cry, "Hey, hey! Boris!"
Granny shook her broom. "Boris, behave yourself!"
It was hard to see Boris; he faded right into the background. And then I noticed what Boris was looking at, two little bunnies on a teeter totter, giggling and totally unaware of their surroundings while a third bunny was watching Boris approach. "I'm next in line, Boris," he cried.
At this point I heard running feet. "Don't worry, Pelvis," Granny called out. "Everything's under control," and she turned again to the bear, who hung his shaggy little head and said, "I just wanted to play on the teeter totter, Granny."
"Of course, you do, Boris, and that's wonderful, but you are very strong compared to the bunnies, and you need to be careful who sits on the other end. Wouldn't you like to play in the wading pool instead? Why don't you see if it's available."
As we walked toward the wading pool area, she said to the young skeleton hurrying toward us, "Boris wants to check out the wading pool, Pelvis. Just keep an eye on him because he can be a bit rambunctious. And don't worry so much, all right?"
I had wondered how a little old lady like Granny could keep track of all those little animals, and that's when she introduced me to Pelvis, one of her skeleton crew of helpers; necessary, of course, when you realize that it is possible that no matter how young they are, some of her little animal charges might accidentlaly hurt or even try to eat each other!
"Pelvis, Shelton, and Patella are well trained and responsible," Granny said, "And they appear quite happy in their year-round jobs. There are other helpers who come in occasionally as needed, or when the three need a vacation, except for primarily a period of about six weeks around Halloween, and I'm happy to provide them off-season employment."
Hmm; on the other hand, when Granny is on vacation, who is in charge? I never thought to ask ...
"Well, dear, Pelvis has things under control, so let me take a minute to let you see this area."
A little blue dinosaur, or what was he? was whistling, and a baby dragon was singing, "Row row row your boat..."
While another little fellow snuffled occasionally.
"Oh, is my time up, Granny?" Fumeretta asked. "Already?"
"Yes, dear. Boris will be coming shortly. Why don't you get a little snack over there from the feeding bowl, and then come in for your story time."
As we moved on, Granny confided, "If I had realized how popular that wading pool would be, I would've had two more in there, but now that the little time-out houses are there, the kiddies use them for napping, too." She sighed. "And, I must say, they get used for time-outs occasionally, too. That's why Blueboy is in here. He thinks he is a bird and whistled so much at nap time that I had to send him out here.
"Okay, now that you've seen this area of the playground, let's go inside."
Next to the stoop were sunflowers and a green plant, and a mysterious mushroom tree. What a cheerful place!
I heard some loud chirp chirp chirps from above and there on the roof was a tiny vulture, feeding some even tinier babies. "Oh, how cute," I cried. "They're not part of your clientele, are they?"
"No," Granny said. "Velma came by for a visit once and liked the location, so she returns each year for nesting season. Her mate Vernon is a great guy; a great practical jokester. Perhaps you can meet them both next time you visit."
"I'll count on that," I said.
I love the time of year when pumpkins are plentiful. I noticed a couple of healthy specimens by the front stoop. "Oh, some of my helpers are always bringing pumpkins back when they are working elsewhere in October," Granny said. "They keep us well supplied."
A tiny little scarecrow smiled at us as Granny opened the door and invited us inside.
Well, apparently I got there at what was supposed to be nap time for one group of kiddies. This little fellow has gone to sleep in the chair.
And these two are tucked away, one on a pallet on the floor. Oh, look at the books on the toy chest. They look well loved, too.
However, not all of the little day care guests were actually asleep, although for the most part they were where they were supposed to be for a period of quiet time.
I was reminded of my young motherhood days when the rule for both my children, who NEVER seemed to need naps, was that you WILL go to bed to rest, but if you don't want to sleep, you can read or play quietly until Mama wakes up from HER nap and then you can get up!
Oh my goodness, what an interesting stand off with these two. I could almost hear the tiny little mouse in the diaper squeaking to the cat, "You lookin' at me?"
I wonder if that's his baby bottle on the table?
The rules are clear at Granny Watchful's: Put the toys back when you are finished with them; either on the shelves or in one of the toy boxes.
I see a large rabbit push toy behind one small toy box.
Well, apparently someone has kept some toys out.
I was surprised to see a TV. Granny shrugged, "Well, sometimes they just need to watch a cartoon or two, you know."
And when they aren't playing with toys, or watching cartoons, they calm down with a story.
Patella is the resident story teller. The little charges come in two at a time when it's their turn to sit on her lap. I was excited to meet her, since I am a storyteller myself. We had a long conversation about our shared interests.
At this point, a little one in a pretty yellow dress asked, "Granny, may I have some milk?"
"Honey, you know the milk comes after nap time. Grab your blankie and join the others."
"Well, what about HIM," she complained, pointing toward a penguin wearing earmuffs. "He's been playing with the ball instead of napping."
"You know the rules; you don't get excused from doing what you are supposed to do just because someone else does something different. If Chilly jumped off a bridge, would you want to do that, too? Don't answer that; don't answer that. Go get your blankie!"
The little penguin scuttled behind Patella's chair, dragging his blanket along. "Don't forget, Granny; when I wake up from my nap, I want ...."
"I know, Chilly, I know. I remember." She sighed as we left the room. "Help me remember to tell Pelvis to add some ice cubes when Chilly goes out to the wading pool."
Shortly after we left the house, I heard a throat clearing sound. "Ahem! Ahem!" I looked up.
"Greetings; welcome, Miss. I am a tree spirit, or, a tree sprite, I never remember which." The strange little creature said. "Granny, do you know?"
"No, dear; I don't know, either. All I know is that you came with the tree, and you've been here longer than I have. Don't worry about it; it's not worth stressing over. What if I worried all the time about whether I am a witch or a substitute grandmother? It's not important."
"Well, I suppose you are right. I have been around a long time, and since I never learned to read or write, I can't figure out by looking at a birth certificate or anything. And I'm too old to worry about getting an education now."
"Oh no," I said. "I was a teacher and I don't believe anyone gets too old to learn something new. Why, I am in my 70s and I read dozens of books all the time. Just last week I got an order from Abebooks and ..."
At this point, Granny nudged me, and I noticed that the tree sprite's/spirit's eyes were glazing over. She had already dozed off by the time I shut my mouth. That happens to me a lot.
As we rounded the corner of the house, I heard shrill barking and saw another helper ahead of us.
"Oh, I see Shelton is back from the store," Granny said.
"Down, Spot!" she cried, as a little dog barked hysterically.
"Got a good deal on the kibble, Granny. It was on sale, plus I had a coupon," he said. "Oh, hi there; you must be Wanna."
"Yes, I am," I said. "So nice to meet you, Shelton."
"My pleasure, Wanna. I would love to chat with you, but right now I better get this divvied up, or Spot there is going to hyperventilate."
"Oh, I understand, Shelton. I don't want to cause a problem with my visit; I know how busy you all are here."
"If we have time, we'll come back before Wanna leaves, Shelton," Granny said.
"Don't forget, Pelvis has a dental appointment next week, Granny," Shelton hollered. "Do you want me to call somebody?"
"Oh, yes, thanks, Shelton, please," she said. "Shelton is SO good with keeping us organized and well supplied," Granny said. "I depend on him for scheduling and notification of parents and such things, as well."
At this point, Spot was wagging his tail and had stopped barking. And then with a raucous cawing, a raven landed next to a jack-o-lantern in progress.
Wow, what a strange little fellow was playing on a piece of playground equipment. I couldn't BELIEVE the loud hissing sound he made. I jumped backward in alarm.
And then I REALLY jumped back in total shock! The hissing was coming from above me in the tree. And you won't believe this, but a serpent was crawling out of it and waving its head back and forth and flicking its tongue and its eyes lighting up.
"Ssstop that, Raven! Ssstay away from the jack-o-lantern," it hissed. Granny smiled mischievously as my jaw dropped in astonishment.
"Meet Sssammy," she said, "Another valued member of my staff. He keeps a bird's eye - well, serpent's eye - view from above. Parents value our day care center above all others in FairyLand because they know their children have constant supervision. Sssammy, my guest is Wanna; you know, the story teller I told you about."
"Nice to meet you, Wanna," Ssammy hissed. "I am Granny's Sssecurity Sssystem. Hey, I check out your websssite frequently to see what new ssstories you have come up with. Why aren't you more active on Facebook?"
'Well, I mainly use it to check on my children and family and distant friends. I am quite active with my online miniatures groups and have a large correspondence worldwide ..."
At this point, his eyes glazed over and he slipped back inside the tree. That happens to me a lot.
"Granny, did you know that Raven has gone back to eating our jack-o-lantern?" The fat cat, or was it a bear? with the yellow yarn ball called out.
"Shoo, Raven. If I have told you once, I've told you a dozen times; you are welcome to come just like the others, but you have to obey the rules. You don't eat something unless it is OFFERED to you."
"Well, ... all right," the black bird said, and spat out some pumpkin seeds. "Sometimes it's hard to remember. Where I live, it's first come, first served, or more likely, every man for himself."
At that point a tiny parrot said, "My mom always gives me crackers. Her name is Polly, and she always says ..."
"Oh, not that Polly wanta cracker business," the grey bear (or was it a big cat?) said, and began snickering.
And next thing we knew, he had gone tumbling head over heels next to a little skunk, who skittered rapidly toward a sunken tub.
A squirrel sitting high above said, "Klutz!" And the skunk nodded. "That's what he gets for being a tattletale and a smart aleck."
"Did you bring our nuts, Granny?"
"Shelton will be around in a while, Ignacio. You and Pedro behaving yourselves?"
"We're always good, Granny," Ignacio said. "It's Dionicio over there who made the smart remark."
"They are always ganging up on me, Granny," Dionicio said.
"Well, you're just all going to have to learn to deal with each other," the skunk said. "Life isn't always easy, you know."
Dionicio replied, "I'll be you could tell some stories about people ganging up on you, Phewey."
"Yup," he said. "But i choose to rise above it."
At this point, Sssammy stuck his head out. "S'okay, Granny; I'll make sure they get along. And bye, Wanna, nice to meet you."
"Goodbye, Sssammy. You take care."
It was getting late and I was needing to get back home. As we rounded the corner toward the wading pool area, a tiny pig squealed. "I counted to 50 and NOBODY came for me."
Granny spoke to me in an aside, "They play an interesting game of hide and seek. Just backwards from the way you and I played. Somehow it never works out for any of them the way one would expect, but usually they're happy." She turned back to the little pig. "Who's playing with you this time, Pigley?"
"Well, it's Chickie, and I've been waiting and waiting ...."
"We'll let him know you are here," she whispered.
"Don't forget, Granny. My mom will probably be here any minute to take me home."
And sure enough, there was Chickie, sitting just around the next topiary.
"Chickie, we've talked about this before. If you play hide and seek you actually have to go FIND the person who is counting."
"Well, I never know when to go because he can't count after 10 and he keeps starting over and over."
"Well, he's waiting for you, so go around there and find him, and then you two come in to get ready for your mothers and dads to come pick you up."
At this point, there was a rustling in the tree above us, and I looked up, expecting to see Sssammy again.
Instead, it was a tiny flying dragon who had just landed.
Sssammy poked his head out of the tree. "Where you BEEN?" He hissed. "I've been covering for you, and this is the lasst time!"
"Okay, O-KAY! I just wanted to see how far I could go, and if my smoke fumes were getting any bigger, and you know Granny doesn't like me to practice around here. But thanks, Sssammy, I owe you one."
And as we walked past the wading pool area, there was Fumeretta again! Boy, I don't want to be around when her smoke fumes begin!
"Well, hello, Mrs. Polecat, are you looking for Phewey?"
"Yes, I am; we have a dinner engagement and we need to get home."
"I think he's over there hiding behind a flower box," Granny said. "He may be playing hide-and-seek with Pigley and Chickie."
"See you next week, Granny. Thanks again for your wonderful service to us."
"My pleasure as always," Granny said graciously. "You have a nice weekend."
And she turned to me. "You come any time, Wanna. We always enjoy having visitors."
"Granny, I know now why Mother Goose wanted me to visit. You are a lovely person, and your helpers are excellent. FairyLand parents can rest assured that their children are in good hands."
We said goodbye, and as I left, there went Pelvis again, running to quell some other potential disaster.
Then I heard a quavery voice calling after me, "Do you know which I am, Miss? I am not sure whether I am a tree spirit or a tree sprite, or what, and I'm too old to learn how to read ...."
I am so glad I went. It's always an adventure when Mother Goose invites me for a visit.
NOTE: Click here to learn how I made Granny Watchful's. And thanks again to Pam Junk for the challenge!