These are our Thank You cards. Actually, they're Thank You books.
They are the full story on which this quest was based. We thought it would be fun to write it all out, with chapters and everything, and with our guests as the heroine, so they would know how all the plot twists turned out in the end. I wrote it one day while the girls were at swimming lessons (apparently, I seem to have done all my party planning this year sitting by a body of chlorinated water). I typed it on my laptop, looking up every now and again to distractedly wave at the girls in their respective lanes and cheer their flipturns or whatever.
Right at the beginning is the dedication page, on which Emily writes her thank you message below the printed words.
Then the story begins. I'll give you the synopsis: the maiden wanders unwittingly onto the grounds of an unreasonable and cold-hearted sorcerer who, to punish her and protect his fortune, turns her legs into a tail (so she could never trespass again) and imprisons her in the Enchanted Lake, together with the key to his hoard. He assigns his servant (the Guardian) to watch over them but dies before he could release either the maiden from her prison or the Guardian from his task.
Years later, the protagonist arrives on the scene and, thirsty for adventure, embarks on the quest to find the maiden where others had failed before. Through lonely landscapes and dusty villages she travels, painstakingly collecting her clues until she reaches the Lake and is confronted by the jaded Guardian. They do battle, she wins with a clever tournament trick and then proceeds to impress her antagonist with an unexpected show of grace. The Guardian reciprocates with valuable advice and our intrepid heroine plunges into the watery depths of the Lake, races against time (and limited air supply) and triumphantly rescues the maiden.
Here, the story takes a new turn as the maiden, revived and resolute, takes the reins (and the sorceror's key) and leads them both back to his grounds, where she storms his castle and uncovers his treasure. She tells her new friend, our heroine, that while trapped in this same castle awaiting sentencing, she learned that he had for years been robbing the surrounding villages, the people of which were too paralyzed by fear to fight back. Now that he was dead, she could take a portion of his hoard back to her own village as proof and as motivation for them (and their neighbors) to return to the castle to claim what was rightfully theirs.
There is great relief when the girls arrive back in the village. The reunion with her family is initially tearful and tentative but quickly erupts into joyous celebration as the girls are made to tell and retell their adventures. In the midst of the rejoicing, the girls slip away and say their private farewells, promising, even as they return to their own lives, that they will always remain friends and someday try to visit (remember, this was looooooong before texting and smartphones).
Cue Kleenex box.
Ah, nothing like a classic fairytale. Minus the prince and royal weddings and princesses in their impractical ball gowns and dancing slippers, patting their updos and belting out soaring melodies about Finding Their Place In This World and Falling In Love With Handsome Strangers Without Even Knowing If They Were Emotionally Compatible Or Had Similar Moral Values, I mean.
Incidentally, I was being very spartan with my plot (and personally think my characters were very 1-D) but if I hadn't been watching the word limit, I'd have thrown in a dragon (LOVE dragons- they make everything superior), a giant squid in the lake (LOVE squids- see dragon reasoning), and additional paragraphs of witty banter between the heroine and the young, flustered apprentice of the village apothecary who was helping her prepare for the quest. Which could then have developed into an epic subplot of awkward first crushes and coming-of-age issues. Which would then blossom in a sequel in which, years later, the apprentice goes on his own quest, serendipitously crosses paths with our heroine, gets into a fix, is rescued by her, and has to learn that there is no such thing as a Distressed Damsel, only one who is moved to blushingly kiss the Hero that gallantly reshoes her horse* for her when she's had a bad day.
And you all asked me why I haven't written a craft book. Um... why, when I could be writing crazy fiction? Eeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Wait. I have no time now. I have multiple small children who still think the world revolves around them. Plus, I must cook meals. Several times a day. Every day. And clean the house (sometimes).
Back to crafts now.
So we made copies of the story at Kinkos, all laid out to fit letter-size paper, slapped on a cardstock cover, sewed a spine down the middle, calligraphy-ed a title and some random castle picture on the front,
included instructions on how each recipient could write herself into the story as its swashbuckling heroine,
got out our washi tape collection,
bound the spines
and slipped a group photo in the back.
Then we mailed them out to our guests to enjoy.
End of story.
Author's note: While I was writing the story and planning the this event in general, I reflected on how having older kids now has changed the way I do parties. I mean, if this'd been for a 3- or even 6-year old, this party would have been all wands and princess dresses and cupcakes with crown toppers and maybe a dragon pinata. And a decorate-your-tiara craft or something similar. Sorta like the Rapunzel party we'd had for Jenna some years back. But when your kid turns 9, and acts like she's 12 and has friends and classmates who also seem older than they really are, a person has to move beyond characters and Disney and sparkly glitter to do justice to this theme. It made me wonder what future parties would be like as Emily heads into the double-digit years and Jenna and Kate follow close behind her. Maybe soon they'll be saying they just want sleepovers or a trip to the Angkor Wat in the place of a themed event. Or, if they are anything like me (although I doubt it, seeing that they like pink and I don't), they might just want a no-fuss unfrosted semolina cake and no singing and simply hanging out with the family over a large pot of curry and baguettes. Whatever the case, I hope they remember that their manic first parties weren't only the Day Itselfs but actually weeks-long crafting marathons with Mom (who couldn't - and wouldn't - have done it without their involvement from the very start). Also that they worked hard to throw the bash for their friends, and that's why it was all so much fun. And that those friends - and family - are the most precious gifts they could ever receive at a party, and thus worth celebrating.
Incidentally, I love that first photo - just plain white cardstock, but photographed in the dappled shade of a tree. Unplanned. Sometimes happy accidents with lighting create really nice outcomes, don't you think?
And now, the Fairytale Party posts are all done. I've updated the main post with links to the individual party elements and added that main post to the Parties Page under my blog banner.
* or whatever is the medieval equivalent of, "Honey, I topped up the gas in your car for you!"