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Sugar Plum Fairy Interview : Page 2 of 2

Christmas Interview with the Sugar Plum Fairy

continued from page 1

"I originally decided to come to New York after hearing that it was a Mecca for dancers. What I didn't know before I came to this city is that it is the perfect place to find beauty in the ordinary, everyday parts of life that most people never even notice. Pigeons and park-benches…gargoyles perched on an old brownstone…a homeless woman with beautiful brown eyes. Things like that."

She seemed a little embarrassed; hoping I would understand. And somehow, I did. "At first, I tried sketching the things I saw, but I didn't have the knack for it. Spending so many years in the land of Sweets affected my ability to draw from real life without trying to dress them up. I couldn't draw anything as it truly was; only a saccharine, gussied-up version of reality. That's when I turned to photography as my new medium of choice. Now, when I see something so ugly it is beautiful, something I can't forget, something that breaks my heart, I take a picture."

"I'm the same. Old shoes in the rain, strung up on a power line and walking in the air…weird neon signs on old churches…junked out cars in a field of sunflowers and sage…abandoned, rusty railroad cars…"

She nodded, smiling. I got it, all right. "In Japan, they have a word for it. Wasabi? Cabo Wabo? Something like that —"

"Wabi-sabi, I think you mean," she said kindly. "Beauty in imperfection. I read about this concept, and embraced it. At home, though, everything has to be perfect — especially this time of the year. The holidays put an insane amount of pressure on Sugar Plum Fairies. Creating those visions of sugar plums dancing in the heads of little sleeping children isn't as easy as it sounds — it's almost impossible to get the fruit right at first, it takes a lot of practice. Sometimes I still end up with dancing artichokes or bananas instead of sugar plums…"

She sighs, shakes her head. "The holidays are almost as hard for humans. Even in their quest for perfection, they know that nothing that is perfect will ever be allowed to last in an imperfect world. Even as they seek the most beautiful, wonderful Christmas tree or just the right gift, they know they are doomed to be disappointed. No wonder there are so many suicides this time of year…"

"How's your first Christmas in New York?" I asked sympathetically. I know the city can be a cruel place.

"I thought it would be different than spending Christmas at home…but it's really the same. Everyone hurrying around, stressed out, trying to make things just right…" She lit another cigarette and said, "I'm depressed, if you want the truth. I'm spending Christmas with my cat and a bottle of vodka, I can't find a decent job, and I haven't had a date in months."

Then I asked her the key question: "Are you considering going back home?"

"Absolutely not!" She looked offended at the very idea. "At least, here, it's okay to be depressed about the holidays. Back in the Land of Sweets, they expect you to keep a lid on it. Half of the fairies I know are on some mood-elevating medication or anti-depressant, because they are simply not allowed to feel or display their real emotions. Here in New York, everything is allowed. No one looks twice at you — you're just background noise. You could have a nervous breakdown in the middle of Central Park, and no one would think anything of it. I'm staying. I'll get through this, and when it's all over, I'll still be right here."

Encouraged by her show of strength and resolve, I asked, "I know you've granted Christmas wishes for countless people over the years — how are you making your own wishes come true?"

"I'm following my heart — imperfect and sad as it is sometimes, it still knows the way to happiness and beauty. I always thought I was meant to be a dancer — no one had any other expectation for me as a little fairy, and I grew up with someone else's dreams in my back pocket. Now, I see myself more clearly than ever — even if I have to look through the lens of a camera to do it. My art — the things I see, the images I want to share with the world — gives me strength during this dark time. I know that even if things are difficult right now, there is beauty and joy somewhere in all this ugliness, if only I can find it. The important thing is to never stop looking for those joyous, hopeful little lights in the dark."

As she finished, our waiter approached with huge steaming plates of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, grits, gray and cornbread. This signaled the end of our interview; food such as this demands serious attention and concentration. Looking back later on the meal we shared, I realized I'd learned something important over a plate of soul food. The Land of Sweets can be a beautiful place, but too many perfect, pretty things leave you feeling hollow and hungry inside. If you were raised on cotton candy and marshmallow fluff, you can eat all the sweet things you want and never really feel satisfied or nourished, deep down. You'll always long for something real, something that will stick to your ribs; something you can sink your teeth into. My advice? Find something that feeds your soul, then pour red-eye gravy on it and chow down. •

© 2008 Molly J. Anderson-Childers

Molly Anderson-Childers is a a highly creative writer and artist from Durango, Colorado. More »

12/19/08