Once upon a time there lived a little girl named Sarah who was always sad. Sarah wished with all her heart that she could be different from what she was. Most of the time she wished most of all that she could have wings like the birds who lived near her home. Sometimes she stood before her mirror and wept, for no matter how hard she wished, she could not grow wings.
"Don't be silly," her mother said. "Children don't have wings," said her father. "You're being foolish," said her brother. But no matter what they said, Sarah wished and wished.One day, as she sat in the garden surrounded by the blooming roses and delphinium, she watched a beautiful golden butterfly settle on a nearby spray of flowers. "Oh, if only I were a butterfly," she sighed, for the butterfly had wings. Wings would be nicer than arms, she thought, and she watched the butterfly spread his wings and float up into the warm summery air. Then Sarah closed her eyes and wished as hard as she could that she, too, had wings.
Suddenly she felt a great weight fall upon her shoulders. "Get off!" she cried. "Who is that crushing me?" A moment later she felt the weight lift.
When she looked up, to her amazement she saw the butterfly hovering before her. But now the butterfly was enormous.
"You're so big," Sarah gasped.
The butterfly looked at her with great surprise. "Oh, no!" said the butterfly. "I am the same size I have always been, but you have grown small. Excuse me, I'm afraid that I mistook you for a flower, but flowers never cry out when I alight upon them. When you did, I knew at once that I had made a mistake. Your clothes fooled me."
Now Sarah looked down and saw that indeed she was as tiny as an insect, and she was dressed only in a blue bellflower. "Oh, my!" she wailed. "How did this happen? I only wished that I could fly." She told the butterfly her sad story. "I'm not so sure I want to be small," she said, finishing her tale.
The butterfly listened solemnly, nodding now and then. "I see," he said. "You've been unhappy with the way you are. Now listen. Do you believe in fairies?"
Sarah smiled. She half-believed. Her mother had once told her that fairies live inside each morning glory, and sometimes, when she looked very closely at the morning glories at sunset, she could almost see the fairies pulling the petals closed.
"I do believe in fairies," Sarah said. "Yes, I do."
"Then I shall take you to the meadow where the fairies live," said the butterfly. "I am sure they will be able to help you. Hop upon my back."
Sarah did just that, and she and the butterfly flew up into the air, which was filled with the song of birds and the drowsy hum of the flies. As they flew, Sarah could hear the bubbling brook laughing beneath them, and as they crossed over a hill bright with wildflowers, Sarah gave a little cry of delight.
Now the butterfly slowed down and landed gently, letting his new friend off his back beneath the shade of the glowing blue asters. Then he flew away to fetch the fairies.
Sarah looked all around, amazed at the sights that surrounded her. The crickets and grasshoppers hopped to her side and began to chat away. A meadow mouse scurried to her side, holding out a handful of wild raspberries and a buttercup filled with brook water. "You must be hungry and thirsty," said the mouse. "Have a little treat, courtesy of all the meadow creatures. Welcome to our home."
Sarah graciously thanked the mouse. She sipped the sweet water and listened as a linnet sang a pretty song. "Welcome, welcome, welcome, Sarah, to our meadowland." The baby beetles stopped in their tracks when they saw Sarah. They pointed at her, their eyes opening wider and wider. "Don't point, it's impolite," their mother hissed.
Then Sarah saw the fairies. They came over the hills wearing blossom gowns and with wings like soap bubbles, reflecting the sun, dazzling with color. The butterfly led the procession.
Every flower in the meadow held a bee or fly or cricket or butterfly, and everyone watched this strange procession. Every creature called out, "Welcome to the meadow, fairies. Welcome to you!" The earthworms and ants climbed out of their holes to see the sight, and the squirrels and chipmunks climbed down from nearby trees to watch.
And then Sarah saw that the fairies were carrying her real clothes - her yellow sundress and white bonnet and sandals. "Oh, thank you," she said when they reached her and held out her clothes. They were exactly as she remembered them, except now they were as tiny as she.
Sarah slipped under a green leaf that made a nice little tent, and dressed in her own clothes as fast as she could. When she came out into the sunlight, the fairies had flown away, but all her new friends were waiting for her. She curtsied to them, and they burst into wild applause.
Sarah still had no wings and could not fly, but she loved her new meadowland home. "Stay with us in the meadow," cried the rabbits and the birds. "Yes, stay with us!" cried the squirrels and the ladybugs.
How could she say no?
The butterfly was so pleased that he began to fly around and around, clapping his wings, tossing Sarah's hair with the wind. All day long, under the summer sun, the creatures danced with Sarah and fed her berries and nectar and buttercups filled with water.
At last the sun began to set. All the animals bowed to Sarah. "Now we must go to our homes," they said. "We will play with you tomorrow again." And off they hurried.
Sarah was so tired from her long day that she lay down to sleep, but when she opened her eyes, she saw that the big stalks of meadow grass were as tall as trees. She felt a drop of water splash on her bonnet, and she looked up and saw the sky growing dark and heard the loud roar of thunder.
Suddenly she felt afraid and lonely. She called out to the butterfly, who was passing swiftly overhead, swaying in the heavy breeze. "I miss my home and family," she cried.
"Then I shall fly you home," the butterfly said. He came in for a soft landing. Sarah climbed upon the butterfly's back, and once again they flew through the sky. Sarah tried to duck from the heavy, cold raindrops.
When they came to Sarah's house, the butterfly landed, and Sarah slipped under the crack of the door and walked quickly inside. There she saw her family sharing supper, and her puppy dozing by her brother's feet. "Hello!" she cried. But her voice was so tiny, no one heard her. "It's me!" she tried again, and her father turned to look. He squinted, and then he said, "I thought I heard a fly."
"Daddy," Sarah cried, "I wish you could see me. I wish I were big again! I miss you!"
She closed her eyes and wished and wished.
A while later Sarah awoke in her nice soft bed in her own room. Her father was looking at her. "Sarah, dear, are you OK?"
She sat up quickly. "I love you, Dad," she said. "And I'm OK without wings."
He smiled at her, but she knew he didn't understand.
She promised herself that someday she would tell him the story of her meadow adventure, but for the moment she felt happy to be just who she was.