We'd just finished reading a chapter of Beverly Clearly's Ribsy. I'd turned off the reading lamp above N's bed, and we'd turned over into our customary back-to-back position for falling asleep.
"Mommy?" N said softly. "Can I tell you a question?"
"Yes, you may ask me a question," I said in my ceaselessly pedantic way.
"When do the Killing Fairies come?"
"The what? The what families?" In my defense, sometimes it's still hard to understand N's speech, especially when the words aren't ones you often hear juxtaposed. You know, like killing and fairies.
"NO," he said slowly and loudly. In his defense, it's frustrating to try to tell people stuff and have them misunderstand you all the time. "The. Killing. FAIRIES."
Immediately my mind sprang into action: What the hell? Oh, hold on. He was talking about something like this earlier. When was it? Right, on the way home from Religious School this morning. Something about needing to check the doors of our house, except I hadn't understood, and started talking about the mezzuzah we have there. Except I had been in a class on kashering your house for Passover today, which means it's likely that his class had been talking about Passover too, and...
Oh. The angel of death. Passing over the houses with the blood on the lintels, and killing the firstborn sons of the houses without. An idea which, I can imagine, was easily transformed in my eight-year-old's mind into some kind of posse of homicidal fairies.
"Oh, no, honey. You mean from Passover? That's just a story from a very, very long time ago."
"So you mean the Killing Fairies aren't real? They're pretend?"
Our rabbi often talks to us adults about having an adult view of the Torah, about how it's possible to both view the stories in the Torah simultaneously as myth and as Truth with a capital T, in the sense that the stories reveal deep truths about human nature, about right and wrong, about morality, etc., without having to have literally occurred the way they are said to have occurred. Now, that sentence didn't come close to doing justice to what he's talked about in this regard, but suffice it to say, it is this sort of theology that has allowed me to become more involved in Judaism without having to shut off the part of my brain that says there's no way that two people who had two sons could populate an entire world. (That, obviously, is just for starters.) It is also what allowed me to answer my son with completely truthfulness.
"The Killing Fairies aren't real, sweetie. There are no Killing Fairies."
N sighed deeply. "Good," he said, snuggling closer to me. "Because I was starting to be a little worried about that."
When Em was a little girl, there were several years in a row when we weren't able to put a glass of wine for Elijah on our seder table, because the whole idea of Elijah--of this stranger who would come into our house and drink wine from our table, and we wouldn't even see him, wouldn't even know he was there--was terrifying to her. (I sort of had to agree with her on that one. I mean, if he LEFT something, like presents under a tree, that would be different. But this guy just comes in, takes the wine, and leaves. Under most circumstances, we'd call that a home-invasion robbery.) It was only in the last couple of years that she's gotten past it, though I think she still finds it rather creepy.
I have to say, I have no idea how exactly Passover managed to outpace Halloween as the scariest night of the year for my kids. Or...maybe not JUST for my kids. Because now I have this image of these Killing Fairies being led on a murderous rampage by a drunken prophet-ghost, and I'm starting to get a little nervous myself.