Editor’s note: Spoiler alert re: the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.
I found it wrapped in tissue and tucked within the zippered pocket of my purse. The small pearly white gem had been there for a month and we’d all forgotten about it – even the Tooth Fairy.
Sam, 11, has been losing the last of his baby teeth at a rapid rate. Evidently, our pastor preaches tooth-rattling sermons, because lately the teeth have come out during church on Sunday morning. At some point during the service Sam scoots past us in the pew with his hand clasped over his mouth. He eventually returns with bloody paper towels protruding from his lips. I can only imagine what the people who sit behind us must think.
Alas, this rite of passage has caused some tension in our home. One of Sam’s parents is unwilling to part with the magic and mystery of the Tooth Fairy. The other has been there, done that and moved on.
When the first Sunday morning tooth loss occurred, Sam handed me the tooth when he returned to our pew. I wrapped it in tissue and tucked it in my purse. On the way home I said, “Sam, I think the Tooth Fairy has retired. She’s getting too old and forgetful to retrieve teeth from under pillows. How about if I give you a dollar?”
“Cool!” he said, as I handed him the cash.
“Wait just a minute!” my husband, Derek, hollered. “The Tooth Fairy NEVER retires! Sam, get that tooth from your mother and put it under your pillow tonight.”
Shocked, I stared at Derek. His fists clenched the steering wheel. His jaw was set. His blue eyes flashed.
I cleared my throat. “Um. Derek, sweetheart, do you remember the last time Sam lost a tooth? The Tooth Fairy’s husband assured her that he would take care of the incisor/cash transaction. But he forgot – night after night. And the Tooth Fairy ended up writing a long letter of apology, explaining how a faulty GPS system caused her to end up in North Dakota. Sam got double the money for that tooth. Do you remember that?”
Sam’s teenage brothers weighed in. “Just give him the dollar,” Zack advised.
“No way!” countered Alex.
Lines were being drawn – sides chosen. I handed Sam his tooth and told him to put it under his pillow. “Do I still get to keep the dollar?” he asked.
I don’t blame Derek for wanting to hang on to Sam’s childhood. Two of our sons are teens and our oldest is 20. While there is some mystery in raising teenagers, there’s very little magic.
And I still remember my outrage when a parent helper at Sam’s school callously informed him that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. Sam was 5 at the time.
When we got home, Sam hustled to put his tooth under his pillow. “I sure hope the Tooth Fairy remembers,” I said, giving my husband a stern look.
The next morning, it was clear that the Tooth Fairy’s memory had not improved. However, Sam didn’t mind because several days later he found $2 under his pillow. Plus he still had the dollar I’d given him.
The next Sunday, Sam lost another tooth. And again the Tooth Fairy’s tardiness stretched the limits of believability.
So, last week when Sam slid into our pew clutching another bloody tooth, I sighed, wrapped it in tissue and promptly forgot about it. As did Sam, as did his father, and apparently the Tooth Fairy, as well.
In fact, the tooth would probably still be tucked away if I hadn’t bought a new purse this weekend. As I cleaned out my old one, I found the wadded up tissue, and almost tossed it, before remembering the treasure it contained.
It’s hard to watch your babies grow up, especially the youngest. I had my first three children so close together, that by the time Sam came along the novelty of sleepless nights, weaning, teething and potty training had paled. Now, I wonder if I rushed him through too many milestones, simply because I’d “been there and done that.”
Maybe Derek is right. Perhaps, it’s not such a bad thing to have a fifth-grader who still believes in the Tooth Fairy. The thought of Sam leaving childhood behind brought tears to my eyes. I reached for a tissue and blew my nose.
Let’s just hope no one asks what happened to the latest lost tooth.