The valley, and the magical someone who took care of it, missed the children terribly. The creeks called their names with a thousand voices. The grackles checked in every eddy with their sharp white eyes. The willows rustled and patted themselves down, in case the children were hiding somewhere in their thickets. The pileated woodpeckers knocked on every hollow tree, just in case. The downy woodpeckers investigated every goldenrod gall, just to be sure. The red squirrel trilled their names and the cedar groves echoed. But there were no children anywhere.
The crows left the valley yelling for them to come back. They flew over the town in a great raucous crowd, alighting on windowsills and peering into the windows of all the houses.
The crows eventually stopped trying to get their attention, but they didn’t leave the children alone. Every night they would stream through the sky back to the upper slopes of the valley, where they roosted together in the trees. Every morning they would glide back down into the town where they would keep watch from the peaks of roofs or the upper branches of trees.
Without the children to splash in the creek and climb the trees and taste the wild raspberries and hide in the thickets, the Magical Someone grew lonely and tired. Slowly, things in the valley began to get out of hand. Garbage started appearing here and there. Sometimes clouds of dust and gasoline fumes drifted in from town, and the Magical Someone just didn’t have the energy to stop it. The bees and the grackles and the coyotes and the painted turtles were worried for the Magical Someone, and worried for themselves and their home. Things got so dire that, in an effort to protect the forest, poison ivy worked hard to grow all over the forest, to keep people out of the creek valley once and for all. It was all they could do to protect their home.
It was this way for many years.
One day, these children of children woke up earlier than usual. Outside, the world was soft and the sky was the twilit blue of pre-dawn. It was the time of day when magic is especially thick in the air. The children only wondered what had woken them for a split second, and then they knew, because it was still happening. It sounded something like this.
It was loud, and kind of annoying, and the children all kind of shrugged and burrowed even deep into their blankets, wrapping themselves in comforters and quilts and burying themselves under thick pillows to escape the annoying noise. The sound of the nagging crows faded. Eyelids drooped and breathing slowed and deepened, and safe in the warmth of their beds the children started drifting back into sleep.
But all of a sudden, eyes snapped wide open and hearts sped up. What was it? Something different, something important, something wonderful was happening! Their bedrooms were familiar and unchanged in that magic blue light of dawn, but nothing was the same. Below the jawing of the crows outside they heard something else. It was distant, and quiet, and hard to hear, but it was lovely, and that faint sound was like a fresh forest wind telling of adventure and wildness and promise. They could almost smell it.
Dozens of small feet hit the floor. The children were wide awake and full of purpose, each of them knowing that something important was happening and they were needed. They had a job to do.
Dozens of small feet pitter pattered down stairs, tiptoed down hallways, slipped through doorways, and sped down quiet streets, through the magic blue light, towards the sound. They skipped down the path, through the creek valley, and into the forest. Above them, the crows shouted and danced, flying loop-the-loops and barrel rolls, climbing and plunging in joy.
The children were back!