Returning to Fairyland by Helen Adelia Slaughter Basham | Esse Diem.
Helen was born in Dunbar, West Virginia, on April 26, 1928. She laughs at newspaperman Jim Dent’s description of “a fate worse than Dunbar.” Her elementary through high school education all took place in a single block and only three blocks away from her home. After Helen worked a year in an office in Charleston, “hating every minute,” her youngest brother came out of the Navy with an engineering degree and helped send Helen to West Virginia University, where she majored in social work.
From 1950 until 1966, Helen worked in several states (sometimes part-time during child rearing years) as a social worker or as an administrator of programs for children and families. She describes her five children as the most important people in her life — sustaining, inspiring, and sheltering her with their love.
After retirement, Helen returned to live in a little house decorated with sage siding and purple shutters and doors, just down the street from the big box of a house where she was born. Her essay describes her experiences as a fairy maker artist and her journey into creative thinking and doing after retirement.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, Helen’s fifty-year-old son died the day before she wrote Returning to Fairyland. She describes the essay as something that “just poured out” of her.
This essay defines place as the world of imagination, and childhood as both the writer’s own tender years as well as those of her grandchildren and future generations of children.
Childhood can be a place of magic that allows our lifelong visitation, if only we will believe and trust.