Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Fire the Tooth Fairy!

     Something's wrong with the Tooth Fairy. Twice she forgot to collect my daughter's tooth and both times she tried to make up for it the following night by leaving an apologetic note explaining her busy schedule, etc. and that that's why she's leaving twice the usual monetary amount. As if that makes up for Penelope's hurt feelings.
     The first time it happened, I felt just awful. There my daughter was, sitting up in her bed early in the morning, something clasped in her tiny fingers, her head bowed over with quiet resignation. The night before, she had gone to sleep all smiles, excited over the magical impending visit, knowing her tooth would be replaced by a reward—the first tooth she had ever lost, which had wiggled for weeks before falling out.
     My wife and I had enjoyed each other's company the night before. When I told her the next morning what had happened, she fisted her hands and mouthed, “Oh shit!” and I nodded and said, “I know.” But my daughter was resilient and happy enough when the Tooth Fairy came through the following night with the special note and reward.
     I learned about the Tooth Fairy the scientific way: I experimented. No one told me the truth about her, but I had my suspicions. The coins and hand written notes looked just too familiar. But there was that ounce of doubt, that delicious ounce, that made me believe and want to believe in magic, fairy tales, that all wishes and dreams come true and are real, alive, and active. So I did the big, cynical no-no. I lost a tooth, didn't tell anyone about it, and stuck it under my pillow. With a mixture of knowing smugness, yet hope beyond reason, I reached beneath my pillow the following morning and tooth. Three days in a row this happened, before I threw the incriminating evidence away.
     Throughout those days, I felt a confident triumph—I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!--tempered by quiet sadness—it was all just make believe after all, it was never really real—ground-shifting realizations for a naïve nine-year-old. In balance, though, I thought it a good thing—fun while it had lasted. And I saw my parents in a new light—creators of happy moments, going out of their way to do nice, secret things for me as I slept, to make life a little more exciting and enjoyable.
     In a confiding tone, I later told Mom about the unredeemd tooth. She looked at me, nodded, and said, “Well you know..” Then she stroked my back and walked away a little more bent than usual, which made me feel a bit guilty, yet proudly in-the-know.
     Just the other morning the Tooth Fairy had a close call with our youngest son Jaren. And it was only his second lost tooth, too. Good thing he slept in late.
     Then, two days after that (he lost four teeth in seven days)--she again neglected to collect a tooth! Jaren took it in stride, saying, “Now I'll get double the usual amount.” I told him, “We'll just have to wait and see.”
     The following morning he was sullen. I asked him did anything happen last night? He said the Tooth Fairy came and left him double the amount. I asked if she left anything else? He teared up and in a quavering voice said, “A note.”
     “Why are you crying?” I asked.
     He wiped his eyes on his collar and said, “I don't know.”
     “What did the note say?”
     “She wasn't feeling well.” Wailing sobs followed, unusual for him who mostly only cries from owies and time-outs.
     “You're sad because she was sick?”
     “What? I can't hear you.”
     I opened my arms and we embraced, which offered a quick remedy. “Go show Mom,” I said. He ran to show her to her great surprise. Mom, by coincidence, just happened to be sick, too.
     Later that day, during a clean-up battle, I ordered Jaren what to do to straighten up his play corner of the living room. After three tries, he finally got it right, except for a sole misplaced paper on his play table.
     “What's that?” I snapped, fed up with his constant need to be told everything.
     “My note,” he said in a low quivering voice.
     “What note?”
     “From the Tooth Fairy.” His sobs convulsed his tiny, but strong frame.
     “Put it away,” I said, still impatient.
     He cried and put it in an insecure play box on the table.
     “Don't you want to put it in your money box?”
     He nodded, settled down, and ran to put it away.
     I'm certain he was afraid I'd order him to throw it away, as I often do with innumerable of his useless pack-rat junk (such as wrappers, no longer needed instructions, stray unused game cards, etc.)

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