Are you ever too old to believe in Tooth Fairy magic?
I arrived home later than usual for a Wednesday night. After teaching community yoga at the Unitarian Church, I had gone out for supper with a dear friend. We talked until the café closed at nine, and then in spite of it being winter in Iowa, stood outside and talked for another forty-five minutes, the workers filtering past us to their cars, calling “good night.” When our fingers were too cold to stay together any longer, we promised to meet again soon and hugged goodbye. My drive home, with little traffic and dry roads, was swift.
It was quiet when I arrived. Then my mother came out of her room to report that even though she had tucked the children in and said good night an hour earlier, she had just recently gone upstairs, found my daughter, 8, on top of her covers asleep with the lights on and my son, 11, sitting on his bed reading. She suggested he turn out his light with school the next morning and he did so, seeming a little sad but without comment.
At midnight my daughter woke me, “Mama!”
“Mmmmmhmm?” I answered sleepily.
“Have you ever had a bad dream?”
“Well, sure.” I lifted the corner of the covers. “You okay?”
She climbed in next to me, eyes already closing. “Yes, I’m fine.”
At three my son was arriving on the other side of the bed. “Mommy?”
I am more inclined to wake easily at three than at midnight. “Yes?” I asked, snuggling him next to me.
“I lost my tooth.”
“I did. But the bad part is, it went down the drain. With a lot of blood. A lot of blood.”
“Before bed. I was wiggling it in the mirror and it started to bleed, so I put it under the faucet and the water knocked it right out.”
“I didn’t know it was that loose. Are you okay?”
“Yes.” But I could tell by his tone that he wasn’t.
When my son was born, his uncle and aunt gave us a tooth fairy box. It’s in the head of a hippo, one of my favorite animals, silver plate, hinged. The very first time he lost a tooth, the Tooth Fairy took the tooth and left a teeny tiny note in the box along with two dollars. After that, the lost teeth went into the box and the Fairy could easily find it under his pillow.
He was nine when my daughter had her first really wiggly tooth. It was January, she was six, and we were headed on a mother-daughter trip for a week in California. She grew worried that she would lose the tooth on the trip and the Tooth Fairy wouldn’t know where to find her. I suggested we pack the hippo just in case; but my son made it very clear the hippo was his tooth box. He reasoned, the Tooth Fairy had given it to him and so she would be bringing his sister her own. What’s a Tooth Fairy to do? In a freezing, blowing snow storm a Tooth Fairy will drive 11 miles to a jewelry store, purchase another silver-plate tooth box, this one in the shape of a compact decorated with the Tooth Fairy prancing on the moon. Flat and potentially harder to locate than the hippo head, it has a silver star attached by a satin cord. The box goes under the pillow and the star stays out. Thoughtfully, the Tooth Fairy slipped the box into our luggage just in case our itinerary got away from her, but we were back in Iowa before the box needed to be delivered to its recipient.
Somewhere between three and five in the morning, when I am stuck between dreaming scary dreams and pondering the lost baby molar, it comes to me. My son, neither man nor boy, a true tweenager, has both handled the loss of his tooth all by himself for the first time and is now afraid that without a tooth to put into his hippo, the Tooth Fairy won’t come.
Weekdays, I get up at five to have a quiet hour on my treadmill before the house is awake. By six-fifteen I’m in the shower, my daughter stirring, my son already breakfasted and dressing for his early morning school bus. He comes pounding on the bathroom door.
“Yes?” I call out, head covered in sudsy shampoo bubbles.
“Mommy,” he calls in, not opening the door more than a crack, “the Tooth Fairy left two dollars on my sink!!” I can hear the delight and relief in his voice. The door closes and I dance just a step or two, pumping the air with my fist.