Once upon a time, there was a small fair-haired fairy-child with golden wings and a golden skirt filled with pink and blue rose petals who lived in a dogwood tree whose leaves were yellow all the year long. For this reason she was called Yellow Dogwood. In the fall of the year, she noticed eerie changes around her tree. Ghost floated among its branches. A skeleton’s skull and limbs emerged from the ground nearby. An enormous spider spun a web on the porch of the cottage behind her tree and great pumpkins with glowing faces appeared. Yellow Dogwood recognized a cat, an owl, three bats and the Count von Count of the Land of Sesame on the strange pumpkins.
Yellow Dogwood knew the meaning of these omens. Samhain, the night when the border between the world of the living and the world of the dead was at its thinnest, was nigh. And she knew what she would need to do. In the village of Takoma, where Yellow Dogwood lived, there was a Samhain procession to honor the dead before they returned to their own world.
On the appointed night, Yellow Dogwood and her brother and her two mothers and her fairy grandmother sailed to the site of the procession in her brother’s pirate ship, Black of the Sea, as it traveled down the canals of her village under dark and cloudy skies. Black of the Sea was a sturdy yellow craft whose sides were always festooned with seaweed. It flew the Jolly Roger on its mast. As the children approached the town square, a merchant made Yellow Dogwood a present of a small orange monkey. Yellow Dogwood clutched it tightly by the hand. Soon Yellow Dogwood saw many people she knew, including her friend the fairy of the Blue Gingko tree and Annie the Orphan girl, a schoolmate of the year before, known then as Dragonfly. Yellow Dogwood and Blue Gingko tried to talk to Annie, but she had grown bashful of them and clung to her mother. Yellow Dogwood also saw a great lass who sometimes served as her nursemaid, wondrously transformed into a pitcher of milk, accompanied by a box of crispy rice porridge. And she saw the nursemaid’s brother, friend of her own brother, in ninja attire. Another boy who rode the school-carriage with her brother had become a masked and armed green turtle and one of her own schoolmates (the spirit of the Blue Dogwood tree) was now a red dragon! The dead and the living mingled. Animals and monsters walked with humans. Hagrid of Hogwarts, he of the large belly and larger spider was there, as were the four Pevensie children of Narnia, along with Aslan and Jadis, the White Witch. Most wondrous of all, a merchant’s rack of garments walked among the crowd. It truly was a marvelous sight!
The villagers were divided by age at the start of the procession. Yellow Dogwood, being three years of age, joined the other three and four-year-old villagers. There were many, many fairies among them, and also a cowboy seated on a horse and a vampire bunny and other strange creatures. Blue Gingko took Yellow Dogwood by the hand as they circled the square. When the smaller villagers had finished their turn, the two fairies settled in the center of the square to wait for the older ones to pass by. Blue Gingko was especially eager to see her brother, Sir Gingko, a knight who had met a sad end. As he passed, they shuddered to see the arrows protruding from his midsection and his helmet and the blood that dripped down, but Blue Gingko was brave and cheered to see her poor departed brother. They stayed in their place to watch for the next group come by, for Yellow Dogwood wished to see Black of the Sea glide by, but somehow they missed it in the crowd.
Yellow Dogwood met up with her brother as the procession entered its second phase, a long trek to the banquet hall at the school called Branches of Pine. A spell had been cast on Black of the Sea that caused some to perceive it as a wedge of cheese, much to its captain’s dismay. As they marched, a light rain fell and Yellow Dogwood grew weary of walking and often wished someone could carry her, but she persevered and finally found herself in the banquet hall, where sweet oaten-raisin cakes, ginger cakes and apple and grape nectar awaited. After they had taken some nourishment and received a bag of sweets to take home, Yellow Dogwood and her brother left the hall. It was then she realized that, alas, she had lost her magic wand! Her mothers searched the hall all over but the wand was not to be found. Saddened but resolute, Yellow Dogwood boarded Black of the Sea and she and her brother and mothers and fairy grandmother sailed home.
The children supped on carrots and noodles and cheese while the grown folks ate lasagna. They were tired and footsore, but there was yet one more task ahead of them. They must visit all the neighboring cottages, offering Samhain greetings and receiving treats in exchange. Yellow Dogwood’s wings glittered in the light of the street lanterns and her skirt seemed to glow as she set off with brother, her mother and her fairy grandmother. The children had regained their strength and they were joyous except when Black of the Sea skidded on wet paving stones covered with leaves and toppled over. Yellow Dogwood’s brother fell out of the ship and wounded his backside, but after a few moments, he recovered. Almost an hour after they set out, they returned, their baskets full of sweets. They sat on the porch of the cottage, eating sweets until it was time to go their beds.
When morning broke, Yellow Dogwood wondered what transformations might befall her next Samhain. Would she be a cat? Nay, a rabbit! Nay, a dinosaur! Aye, a dinosaur! Yellow Dogwood’s brother thought that his ship might transform into a castle. It had been a marvelous night among the spirits. Yellow Dogwood and her brother could hardly wait for next year.