– Esme Faber
“(They) find your heart missing from your chest and give it back to you beating full of love and laughter in a beautiful gift basket.”
Rescuing fireflies took all evening. After finishing my summer reading, I ran through the fields and the long grasses whipped at my legs. I didn’t care about the welts. I got on my four-wheeler and rode back into the remote corners of the woods where there were barely pathways and opened my jars, being sure to cup my hand over the openings. I collected fireflies for hours in larger jars with oxygen holes. The jars were the kind you filled up to water big dogs. My mom boarded animals for a living on our tiny farm, where our happiness used to reside.
The waterers were up on slats and there were so many of them, it looked like a lost metropolis back in there. I stacked some high and some low so that no matter where I looked, I was surrounded by the symphony of flashing lights. I turned my music app on, and the pulse of the music traveled the length of my ear buds. It moved through my ear drums and pierced me straight in the heart. I danced and sang madly, pretending that the fireflies were my back up singers. There was nothing wrong in that world, tucked away in the private darkness of my forest. My dad had “given” it to me when I was small, calling it “Annie’s enchanted woods.” Some fathers built swing sets for their little girls, but my dad gave me the magic.
“This water is from an icy, babbling brook in ancient Siberia and it’s stirred each morning by the forefinger of the ghost of Yermak Timofeyevich…it’s made just for you, my sweet Annie, with love.” He would say when he handed me a bottle of off brand, bottled water. “Stay hydrated today,” and then he would go to work in his shop and work on his masterpiece. He was always trying to live up to his “family legacy,” he told me. Whatever that meant.
When mom found out what I was doing with the fireflies that evening, she made me let them go. She is the kind of person who loves animals more than people…and she always does the right thing…always. She takes the winds right out of my sails. A kill-joy…yeah, that’s what she is. I thought.
“Okay, okay.” I said as I emptied the last of them into the open field.
“Annie, you are amazing, only 10 years old and you built a firefly powered light show, deep in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Your father would be so proud. Remember the time he taught you how to make clouds disappear? He taught you to focus on a cloud in the sky with absolute concentration and to say again and again, “Go away cloud, go away,” until it dissipates. You have power in you.”
“Yeah, well Dad isn’t here to see any of this, is he?” I said feeling powerless instead of powerful. I took my tablet to my room and slammed the door. I looked at my mud smeared face in the mirror. I wonder if I was more like her or more like dad. I thought, and I didn’t know if I’d rather be either of them right now. I was so bitter and angry.
Suddenly there was some loud, boisterous, rummaging in the closet. I smelled the distinct pungent smell of a Wolpertinger, and then vines started to grow in my room. Flowers burst forth from the vines, throwing plaster and paint everywhere.
My father saw a Wolpertinger once when he was a boy and had described it to me in detail.
“They smell skunk-like. If you touch one, it will take you seven years from the time you are sprayed for it to dissipate.” He explained it to me with enthusiasm. He believed in this stuff and he taught me to believe in it too.
The elusive Wolpertinger appeared at the edge of my bed. He just stood there, simply allowing himself to be seen by me and said, “Your father has died but he left a legacy behind. You don’t know who you are without him, and so I will show you,” and he disappeared through the wall of the house, snap…just like that. I ran into the walk-in closet and saw it in disarray. I started screaming
“MOM, THAT CREATURE STOLE DAD’S BARN KEYS. They were right here on this hook and look the blue prints to his masterpiece are missing. AHHHHHH!” I smashed box cars we made together and threw over my chest of drawers. Really lost it you know.
“Annie, you are over reacting. Wolpertinger are incredible detectives for the Easter Rabbit. They find whatever your heart’s desire is. It takes them months of stake outs, listening in on phone calls and rummaging through trash bins to serve you up the biggest basket of joy they can find at Easter.” The room, including the closet had been thick with flowers and foliage, but started to pull back into the walls and soon you could hardly tell that it had been there at all.
I thought about it all for a minute. “He was cute, mom. He had a rabbit body and small antlers on his head. He had strange little bird wings and the sharpest fangs hanging inches down the sides of his mouth. He spoke English perfectly.”
“They are magical creatures from Bavaria. They know dozens of languages, Annie. Consider yourself lucky to catch a glimpse of him. Not many people get such an honor.”
That next Easter was an amazing one because it opened unimaginable doors for me. Nothing is more magical than finding out who you really are. I woke up to the smell of oranges, sage and lemons. There was also happiness in the small house like there was when I was a little kid.
“Good morning mom. Did the Easter Bunny come?” I said.
“He sure did and wait till you see what’s in our baskets. For the life of me, I don’t know how they do it.”
“Do what?” I asked eagerly.
“Find your heart missing from your chest and give it back to you beating full of love and laughter in a beautiful gift basket.”
Well with that, I could barely contain myself. I ran to the living room where the baskets were always sitting on Easter morning and I saw it. Mom had been given a small, hand held tape recorder.
“Dad used the tape recorder to talk into for work ideas…but this tape recording is about ‘us,’ and how much he was going to miss being my other half. He described our family as a matryoshka, stacking doll. All parts of the same spirit. I don’t know how I overlooked this tape, I looked through all of his things in the Pole barn, Annie. It’s Dads voice on the recording…how do they find these things?” We listened to the tape again and again until our eyes were dry spigots, unable to spare another drop. “What did you get honey?” Mom said with a wholeness I hadn’t heard in her voice since Dad died.
Besides there being more candy than I could possibly eat, there was a beautiful, ornate egg. I cut it open respectfully. Inside were Dad’s keys. One had been painted bright pink. We hurried to the Barn where Dad used to work and there was a small metal box with a matching pink egg painted across the lock, like a bullseye.
“His lock box.” I said to mom, opening it slowly. In it was a Russian Fabergé egg wrapped in gold leaf paper and taped closed. It was jeweled, ornate and priceless. “Dad told me about these eggs. There are only 40 or 50 left in the world, and they are worth millions.” Inside of the egg was a hand-written note. My father’s sideways slanting handwriting was there. I touched the paper reverently. I traced my name, lovingly.
Our last name Faber isn’t our given name. Shortening it was a means to assimilate here in the United States undetected when my great grandfather came to the states. Our name is of the House of Fabergé and we are from St. Petersburg originally. This masterpiece was made for the Tsar to be given to his wife on the occasion of the Easter holiday in 1895. This piece of Imperial Russian history has been in our family ever since. As you know, this is priceless, if you should ever choose to sell it, go through our family lawyer who has the connections you would need to get the highest and fairest price. The shadowy men and women of the black-market antiquities scene anywhere in the world would love to get their hands on this. Therefore, my dear, you are only now finding out about this. It was for you and your mother’s protection. I’ve kept it a secret in case you would have liked to tell your friends, but I think you are old enough now to know. It would be best if this were kept in the safe and kept quiet. I’m confident that the Wolpertinger will know what to do when they find it. Think of it as not only your inheritance but a tribute to who you are as a person. One of a kind, incredibly beautiful and rich with history. Please know that you are loved, and that cancer can not stop a person from living on. I live on in you.
Love always and forever,
That was the day that I decided magic is real and that the egg needed to be in a museum, but I am getting ahead of myself here. I contacted our lawyer.
“You didn’t know about this mom?” I asked later that morning in Dad’s studio. We had decided it was time to clean it out. We hadn’t wanted to touch it, but somehow now it seemed ok.
“Your father was full of secrets. I never knew what he was working on for example. He always told me that it was a need to know situation.” I may never know what he was designing.
The lock box was still sitting open on Dad’s work bench. It rattled. It hopped. It jolted forward so aggressively that it fell onto the floor. Thank goodness I still held the priceless egg in my hands. Mom picked up dad’s lock box and pulled out the blueprints that the wolpertinger had stolen last summer. Taped to the paper was another key and an address. We looked at each other, and we hopped into the Buick. Mom drove so fast, she actually scared me.
“Mom, no one knows about this key but us. Please slow down.”
“You sound just like me.” She said smirking slightly. I liked when she made that smirk. I imagine it was that smirk that made Dad fall in love with her. Not only was she beautiful when she did it, but it showed her human side. She wasn’t a saint, and I found that very relatable. I loved her so much and as she took her foot from the accelerator to slow down. I saw it.
“This is it, pull in here.” We parked the car and walked up to an old mill. It was newly renovated without any signage or branding, but it was obviously a new store front. Mom slipped the key easily into the lock and turned it with a click.
The lights came on and it revealed the most beautiful, quaint shop. There was a kitchen in the back because mom loved to bake. There were cases of ornate chocolate eggs.
“They are too beautiful to eat.” I said to mom.
“What is this place?” She said to me. I looked around for another note from Dad and true to form, there was one, right by the register.
Dearest Esme and Annie,
Welcome to Faber House, it’s a chocolate shop and bakery. You have any interest in chocolate making Annie? I know your mother loves to bake. I have been working on this for a long time. All of the legal paperwork is with our lawyer. I hoped to have it finished before…well, you know, but I didn’t make it to the grand opening. It’s all for you. The Wolpertinger helped with this batch of chocolate. I ordered edible Fabergé eggs, because I thought it would make you smile. I love you both.
We contacted the lawyer and set up the real Fabergé egg to go to a museum and we set up our website and our accounts and everything and had our grand opening the next month in May. I went to school during the day and took chocolate and kids baking classes at night until I got really good at both. I had found purpose. I didn’t need to be rich to be happy, I just needed to know who I was. I’m a chocolate maker and a history and antiquities lover. I’m a Faber and a Fabergé and I’m a daughter who is equal parts her mom and her dad.
If you find this article fun, interesting and informative, let me know in the comment section below, and as usual…happy writing!