Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Tooth Fairy—Part II

     Penelope must take after me. The other day Jaren loses a tooth and shares this fact at the dinner table. Penelope shares that she lost a tooth a month earlier and got nothing from the Tooth Fairy for it.
     “Did you stick it under your pillow?” I ask.
     “Yes,” she says.
     “Where is it now?”
     “In my drawer.”
     “You have to tell us,” Deanne says with a smile.
     “Just like last time, she must have missed it,” I say more for Jaren's sake than hers.  (See my prior Fire the Tooth Fairy! essay for details regarding.)
     What bothers me is her blabbing about her unclaimed tooth in front of Jaren, even though inside, I'm somewhat impressed by her scientific inquiry that seeks independent verification of facts via experimentation—which was exactly what I'd done when I was about her age and had doubts about the Tooth Fairy story—instead of assuming things one way or another. 
     That night the Tooth Fairy visits both Jaren's and Penelope's rooms and exchanges their lost teeth for U.S. currency.
     By contrast, older brother Braden at about Jaren's age, was so unsophisticated and slow, missing so many truths behind stories and events, and so hypersensitive besides that I felt compelled to let him in on the little secret for his benefit. I pictured him sans truth asserting to playmates that the Tooth Fairy does exist—Mom and Dad said so!—to their guffaws, teasings, and cruel revelations. Then he'd later ask us is it true? and deem us untrustworthy liars for leading him on if we admitted yes it is, or unreliable double-talkers if we said, “The Tooth Fairy exists if you believe in her.” The subtle differences between good and bad lies, half-truths, and stories would be far beyond his ken and not something I'd have dared share for fear of misapplication, for it's tough enough teaching a youngster not to lie, much less when and how it's okay to not always tell the full truth.
     So here's Braden with deep concern asking, “How does the Tooth Fairy get in our apartment?”
     “I guess she flies in,” I say.
     “Thorough the balcony?”
     “I never saw her, I suppose so.”
     “How does she know I lost a tooth? Or does she check every night?”
     “I don't know, but she somehow does. I guess it's magic. She doesn't check every night.” By now his stranger anxiety has set in, his voice wavering and his eyes searching mine—we taught him well about the need for home security, but sometimes he takes it too far.
     “Does anyone ever call the police?”
     “What for?”
     “The Tooth Fairy?”
     “But she's not stealing.”
     “But suppose someone wants to keep it?”
     “Then they shouldn't stick it under the pillow. But then they wouldn't get any money for it, right?”
     “Yeah... But suppose they just want to keep it there?”
     At this point, I can see where the conversation is headed so I say in quiet tone, “Come,” gesturing for him to sit before me. Hand cupped over his ear as if I were blowing soap bubbles, lips pressed to the circular opening, I say, “The Tooth Fairy is really Mommy.”
     His body jerks to, then eases with limp knowingness. “Noooo....” he says with a smile.
     I nod and whisper, “Yes, she is. But only for your teeth.” Here his posture perks up again, keen and alert. “There's no such thing as magic,” I continue. “She doesn't grow wings or fly around or anything like that. She's still just Mom—just like we see her right now doing dishes.” I pause to gather my thoughts while he looks on and nods. “When you're asleep, she goes into your room, feels under your pillow for the missing tooth, and leaves money behind for you to find when you wake up in the morning. Neat, huh?” He nods. “Don't tell Mom I told you, okay?”
     “Can I play now?” he asks.  His eyes show a readiness to move on to matters less profound.
     “Sure,” I say.
     Later I tell Deanne what happened and she smiles, knowing Braden is happiest when in on the truth.

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