An affectionate appreciation of a friendship that enriched a life and stirred an imagination.
Canadian actress Coyne subtly reminds us that individuals can change lives in ways that resonate forever. She begins by describing a photograph taken in June 1963 at a Toronto train station. Five-year old Susan, her mother, and older sister Nancy were about to board the transcontinental train bound for Lake Superior. The family owned a summer home on an island in a nearby lake, and Coyne vividly describes their excitement at sighting the island, opening up the house, and revisiting their favorite haunts, as well as their neighbors, the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Moir. That particular summer, Susan discovered an abandoned fireplace in the hedge between the two houses. When her father told her it was built by elves, she began leaving small presents there that disappeared by morning. One day she found a letter (her nanny read it to her) written by “Princess Nootsie Tah” on behalf of Queen Mab. Coyne dictated a reply, and the correspondence began. Reproduced here, the letters are a charming mix of fairy lore, quotes, and pithy comments from the Princess—an alter ego, we slowly realize, for Mr. Moir, a retired school inspector. Susan spent hours with him, helping in his garden or listening to him read about fairies. Young enough to believe, she was captivated by the letters and the stories. By the following summer, the fairy letters had stopped, but Susan continued her friendship and correspondence with Mr. Moir until his death years later. His letters are rich in literary allusions, information, and encouragement, which Coyne especially appreciates when she realizes in high school that she would rather act than write. Fittingly, her first role after graduation was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A beguiling tale of a child bewitched by the best magic: stories told by an adult not too old for make-believe.