When I was a little kid (which doesn’t seem like that long ago, but I keep being told that in fact it was) I had the notion that the Tooth Fairy would inspect the tooth you left her and that your reward was commensurate with the quality of the incisor. One Saturday morning when I was about 6 a tooth came out, so I set about polishing it for the fairy lady. I brushed it and rinsed it, but it didn’t strike me as quite pearly enough. So I pulled the stopper on the bathroom sink, filled the basin with warm water, squirted some toothpaste into it, and dropped my tooth in to soak. I had seem my mother do this with sweaters, so I figured it was a viable way to clean things. Off I galloped to play — it was Saturday after all, and that’s what kids did in those days.
A few hours later I came back inside to see how white the tooth was now, but to my horror the sink was empty; no tooth, no water. I ran crying to my mom, who was previously unaware of my tooth-bath, where I explained to her my whole scheme. She confessed to have assumed it was just a sink of soapy water and drained it, tooth and all. She tried her best to console me, but explained that the water from the sink goes under the road into a nasty place called “the sewer” which is the same place that the toilet water goes. “Your tooth is gone, and we can’t get it back.”
Not to be deterred, while asking my mother how to spell the words, I wrote a letter to the tooth fairy, knowing full well that she has magic and can simply teleport the mucky thing back from the nether regions of the municipal water systems. The letter asked that the tooth fairy go find it and leave it for me so that I could know that she was all-powerful as I suspected.
Sunday morning I woke up to find that the letter was still under my pillow where I had left it, along with the missing tooth, and a $1 bill, which was the going rate back then. My faith in the tooth fairy’s omnipotence was never stronger. For the next few years she held rank above even Santa Claus, because he wouldn’t have been able to dig my lost tooth out of the sewers — that took fairy power!
When I was older and wiser I asked my parents about this incident. Had my mom taken the tooth out before draining the sink, and if so, why make me suffer the loss all day? It turns out that after it was discovered that my tooth was missing down the drain, my father (without my seeing him) had pulled off the trap from under the bathroom sink and it was sitting right in there. Clever guy. Ever since then I have appreciated that effort. While they could have simple blown the whole charade, the wonderment that event created in my young self was profound and delightful.
When our first born lost her first tooth, I naturally had a fondness for the tooth fairy myth and was entirely comfortable perpetuating it for my offspring. We followed the normal routine, but I didn’t give even a glancing thought about what the going rate was for fallen teeth. That night the tooth fairy left a $1 bill under her pillow like she always had done with my generation.
That next day at school Hayley was naturally keen to tell her classmates about her newly acquired loot. To her dismay as well as my own, she discovered from her toothless peers that the tooth fairy had been affected by inflation like everything else and was giving the other kids $5 per tooth, not the mere $1 that Hayley had received. Mental note: $5 next time. “Maybe you need to brush better,” I told her, which seemed plausible enough to her and she shrugged it off. Every other tooth after that got paid $5.
That was a few years ago. For those who are unfamiliar or have forgotten, kids lose the front eight incisors first, around the age of 6-7, then they take a break for a few years. Around age 11-12 the molars begin popping out. Hayley just recently entered phase two of tooth-loss, so age-wise she’s getting near the edge of disbelief. I’m not entirely certain at this time about the strength of her belief in the Big Three (Santa, Easter Bunny, tooth fairy), but her younger brother Luke is definitely in the prime of his childhood fantasy years so we’ve made every effort to keep the show going. Obviously at some point the logical mind’s maturity intersects with the childhood myths, and they reason their way out of those beliefs all by themselves.
So when Hayley lost her first molar last month — which was the first tooth to come out in a few years — she did the usual routine and went to sleep. I told Mr. Perfect (my husband) to remember the tooth fairy, he told me to remember it too, we watched some TV and that was that. In the morning Hayley came walking forlorn into the kitchen as Mr. Perfect and I were preparing breakfast. “The tooth fairy didn’t come,” she moped.
DREAD! We both forgot! I instantly gave my husband a brief sideways glance with eyebrows arched that clearly meant “You stall — I’ll get the money.” Without missing a beat he picked up exactly what I was putting down and calmly took Hayley off to her room. He began explaining to her something about tossing and turning when she sleeps, while I dashed to my purse. As she showed him where the tooth had been placed under her pillow, I silently slipped a $5 bill into his waiting outstretched palm behind his back. Like a card magician he palmed the bill invisibly in one hand, grabbed the corner of the bed where it meets the wall, and as he heaved it away from the wall in that sudden aggressive way that men move furniture, he released the bill into the void. Hailey peered around him to see and there lay the elusive loot on the floor. “See dear, it had fallen into the crack.” She was delighted. If she suspected any shenanigans, it wasn’t apparent to either of us.
It’s certainly not as fantastical as my lost tooth adventure from my youth, but its a small gesture that I hope she will appreciate some day and perhaps encourage her to pass along that bit of childhood wonderment to her cubs.