Submitted by: Alisa Advani, Old Northside Resident
When the COVID pandemic hit, ONS residents found themselves sequestered inside, turning to various activities to idle away the time. Neighbors drew inspirational chalk drawings on the sidewalks to cheer along walkers and placed teddy bears in their windows to surprise and entertain children.
One resident, Alisa Advani, who resides at 1543 Broadway, started a fairy garden. To her surprise, a little project that started with a couple of fairies and happy gnomes evolved into a much larger creation which now includes “The Enchanted Forest,” “Gnome Town USA,” “The Magical Farm,” “Dragon Alley,” “Bear Creek,” “Wizard Passing,” “Troll Way,” “The Animal Book Nook,” and “Moose Crossing.”
“I also added a Winery at the suggestion of my next-door neighbor Gwen Chastain. We needed to make sure the gnomes could have a cold one Broadway Street style,” explains Advani.
“During the epidemic, I wanted to escape from the grim reality on the news every day. We were all essentially stuck, so all I could do was go inside my imagination,” she says. “Once I started designing it, I got lost in the process. I kept adding pieces. I’d gather inspiration from Pinterest and other internet searches. As it grew, the repurposed space under our big pine tree began attracting attention from likeminded adults and children. We all needed a whimsical getaway.”
She knew that she had tapped into something unique once adults, like Chastain, would stop in front of her house and ask questions and comment. Advani says that she still invites kids over and couples will wander by walking their dogs and listen to the stories she tells about the residents of the fairy garden and share an Oreo cookie or two.
“It turned into a meeting place to see each other at a safe distance and remain connected during a difficult time in our global history,” she says.
While Advani has had a blast with the big kids of the ONS, it’s been the neighborhood children that have given her the most joy.
“Nothing makes me happier than hearing their laughter and watching their faces beam as they peer through the fence,” she says.
One of her stories involves the All-Knowing Tree, who can speak to every living thing in the world. Chastain’s twin sons, Eddison and Harrison, usually place the “twin” gnomes Advani bought for them by the unique tree. The boys named their special gnomes “Ron” and “Don.”
“The naming ceremony was a big deal,” explains Advani. “We had Oreos and decided where Ron and Don would spend most of their summer. Sometimes they also like to visit the black bears in bear creek to go camping.”
She also likes to remind the kids how lucky they are to be the tooth fairy’s neighbor. Fortunately, the bringer of cash to the newly toothless happens to have a fairy door into the ONS through the pine tree, and the kids are excited to be her neighbor.
“We are all happy that we are first on her stop,” she says.
On a serious note, Advani points out that all the beings who live in the fairy garden get along and live harmoniously. The crows and the dragons look out for everyone, and the trolls and gnomes make sure to respect one another.
“On a small scale, it’s a microcosm of the ONS,” she says.
On a larger scale, it’s a model for an ideal world. When another one of Advani’s neighbors, Cami Lica, had brought her daughter Adeline to see some of the newest pieces in the garden, the two of the told Adeline about the peaceful world the fairy friends had created, and the incredibly precocious young girl remarked, “and isn’t that the way it should be everywhere?”
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