Dance Like a Fairy and Sing Like a Bird

For five generations now, our family has spent parts of our summers at a place in the high peaks region of the Adirondacks called Putnam Camp. This rustic place, nestled at the foot of Giant Mountain, hosted Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung along with William James while the two psychoanalysts made their first and only trip together to the United States. Cabins have names if not running water, and after each family style meal, guests climb the base of the mountain to have tea and dessert in a wall-less cabin affectionately known as The Stoop. This is also where folks pull out guitars, banjos, the occasional hand-made upright bass, and sing songs passed down from family to family for generations.

Putnam Camp has some traditions which require music, too; notoriously a song guests sing to latecomers to dinner called “Little Popsie Wopsie.” (Our mother lived in fear of being “Popsie wopsied,” and thus we girls were never once late.) But our favorite song is the one guests sing to the departing visitors. At the end of a stay (typically a week), remaining guests line up and hold hands and do a kind of modified can-can while singing this song to the car loaded with the departing guests as it drives down the mountain out to Route 73.

We’ll dance like a fairy
and sing like a bird
Sing like a bird, sing like a bird
We’ll dance like a fairy
and sing like a bird
And wile the hours away

In our family, we have taken this tradition and applied it at every possible opportunity to bid farewell to any guest at all. My kids would sing it to the postwoman if they could. My parents often sing it to us as we drive away from their house, the two of them holding hands and kicking their feet gamely back and forth, waving with their outside arms as our car follows the bend in the driveway.

Last Sunday, our friend Kris departed after spending a lovely day with us. “Dance wike a faiwy!” Johnny shouted as she closed her car door, and so Lila and Johnny and I sang and danced and waved as Kris made her way back home. As we turned to go back in the house, it occurred to me that the song needed some new verses. Probably this occurred to me because my son wouldn’t let me stop singing the one existing verse, and I was getting bored. Boredom is the doorway to creativity, says our friend Holly Near. So here are our new lyrics to Dance Like a Fairy, and a video so you can hear the tune. Sing to your dearly departing!

We’ll dance like a fairy and sing like a bird
Sing like a bird, sing like a bird
We’ll dance like a fairy and sing like a bird
And wile the hours away

We hope that your travels bring you safely home
You safely home, you safely home
We hope that your travels bring you safely home
And show you some fun on the way

We’ll hold these good times we had close to our hearts
Close to our hearts, close to our hearts
We’ll hold these good times we had close to our hearts
Until we’re together to stay.

We’ll wile all our hours away while you’re gone
Away wile you’re gone, away while you’re gone
We’ll while all our hours away while you’re gone
And then we will go out and play.

About nields

musician, writer, mom
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