In an old copper beech tree behind a grand hotel there is small knot in the wood. It is low to the ground and most of the grown ups rushing by don't even know it's there. The only grown up who knows about how remarkable this particular tree really is, is Leo, the gardener. He discovered it years ago when he was just a little boy and he never forgot about the magic of the tree. A copper beech is a pretty special kind of tree no matter which one you find. It has about a hundred branches that spread out from the bottom and reach up to the sky. It is a supremely climbable tree. The leaves are green on one side and a beautiful rust color on the other and the trunk of the tree is big and round and smooth; except of course for the small knot in the wood at the bottom of ours.
Near our tree is a small playground for the children staying at the hotel and if you sit on the swings at just the right moment, you will see a magical sight. The rust colored leaves will begin to glow and wave even though the wind is perfectly still. The bark will start to sparkle and the birds that live in the highest branches begin to sing. When that happens you can be assured of two things. A full moon is near and the elves living inside the tree are planning to pay you a visit.
That's what happened to our friend Leo late one October afternoon many years ago. His dad was the manager of the hotel and Leo loved to wait for him at the playground afterschool. He liked to help the little ones on the swings and then he took his turn. He was swinging away, higher and higher when something unexpected caught his eye. The tree looked like it was lit up from within and it began to sway. He hopped off the swing and ran over. Hand over hand he began to climb and the higher up he went the more of the happy birdsong he could hear. He was filled with joy and even though he knew he should climb down, he just couldn't bear the though of leaving the warmth of the tree. He felt the branches envelop him like a blanket and he snuggled into their arms. Before he knew it, Leo was fast asleep.
To this day, Leo has no idea how long he slept. His dad says it must have been for at least an hour, but he remembers it being much less time than that. Either way, they both agree that he must have fallen asleep. The next thing Leo remembers was a soft tapping on his foot. Tap, tap, tap. Slowly, he opened his eyes and then he shut them again quickly. Leo decided he must be dreaming. Still came the taps. He opened his eyes again very carefully and this time he jumped up so high that he might have fallen right out of tree if the little creature tapping his foot didn't grab hold of it and help Leo climb back up the tree.
"Hello, hello hello, I'm Sir Arbolis and I'm so delighted that you accepted our invitation to join us for tea."
"You sure are strong for your size. How'd you ever hold onto me when I fell? Are you an elf? Oh my gosh, wait a minute, did I hit my head?" Leo stammered.
"I said I am Sir Arbolis and yes, of course I am an elf, in fact, even more than that, I'm an elfin fairy. The fairy comes from my mother's side naturally. You are Leo, are you not?"
"Yes, I am."
"Then welcome, you are to be our guest and I can see our dear tree has chosen well. You are brave and kind and we have seen you play beside us for a long time. You have earned the highest gift we have to offer."
Leo could hardly believe his ears. A gift? He wondered if elves gave away magic powers or precious gems, but he didn't have to wonder long.
"I, Sir Arbolis of the ancient order of the Beech, hereby bestow upon good and kind Leo," Leo held his breath with excitement, "our highest gift; our trust."
Now if Leo had been a sophisticated child like you are, he would have realized that no power or plaything could ever be as precious as the gift of being trusted, but he wasn't as clever as you. He tried to be polite, of course, but he was really hoping for some magic. Just as he was figuring out what to say, Sir Arbolis began tapping again. He tapped his foot, his hands and finally his head and then, whoosh Leo and Sir Arbolis were almost the same size, about two inches high.
"Follow me." said Sir Arbolis and he walked done the branches of the tree to the knot in the wood. One more tap and the knot became a door that swung open wide. Leo and Sir Arbolis entered the tree and felt immediately at home. There were wonderful smells coming from a bubbling pot on the hearth and giggling laughter coming from the elfin lady taking the fresh bread out of the beehive oven.
"Oh I love to cook and I love to eat,
I love my veg and I love my meat.
I love to sing and I love to share,
And I'm the best hostess anywhere."
With that, she turned around and turned the same color red as the leaves glowing outside.
"Oh my! How silly, I didn't see you there." She giggled.
"I'm Lady Laughs A Lot, come closer if you dare." Her eyes twinkled and everyone began to laugh. Lady Laughs A Lot could do just about anything in the whole wide world except for one, she was never even a little bit scary.