She had been wiggling that tooth for at least a week. First with her tongue. Then with her finger, despite our repeated reminders to keep her hands away from her mouth.
As is usually the case, it was the first one in, and the first one on its way out. Bottom row, front and center. You know the one. Yes, there it is! Amazing really, how tiny it was, and how it had managed to serve her so well for the first five years of her life. Really just four, since that little bugger hadn’t even poked through until after she had turned one.
So we tucked her in that night, tooth safely stashed in a quilted pouch created specifically to harbor this treasure; pouch safely stashed beneath a polka-dotted pillow she had named Dottie.
Our golden-haired girl had brushed her remaining teeth and said her prayers, and if it’s like any other night – a night when all her teeth are still in her mouth – she’s sound asleep before I get down the stairs.
But it’s not any other night. And from the darkness, I hear a pitiful voice. “How does he get in, Mommy?”
“How does WHO get in?” I’m at her bedside now, more than a little horrified by the look of abject terror on my daughter’s face. She’s talking about the tooth fairy, of course, and it’s a very good question. I rack my brain. Let’s see. Santa comes down the chimney – that’s the obvious one. As for the Easter Bunny, we had long ago established that a seven-foot rabbit doesn’t belong in the house in the first place. Nothing to work with there.
So how does the tooth fairy gain access to my daughter’s private sanctuary?
Maybe it’s through the window, or the closet, or out from under the bed. Creepy concepts, all of them.
Think, woman, think!
Sadly, I have no memories of the tooth fairy from my own childhood. I do remember a shiny quarter (I know, this was a long time ago!) under my pillow in the morning, but no back-story on how it got there. We don’t even have any picture books starring the tooth fairy in our rather extensive home library.
Desperate, I decide to go with magic dust. “Who throws the magic dust, Mommy?” Her voice trails off as I head to my laptop to start work on a children’s book about you-know-who. Thirty minutes later I check on her. Eyes wide open and resolutely fixed on a picture of her and her dad. Her hands are folded over her chest. Is she praying?
“Let’s draw a picture of the tooth fairy!” I suggest, feeling very smart as I channel my inner Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund and founder of child psychology. But I’m not even sure I want to see this portrait. What evil entity might my terrified daughter render?
Detail by detail, not unlike a police sketch artist, my daughter toils over her illustration. Finally, her tooth fairy reveals itself. This is no pixie with wings and a wand, but it’s no Boogeyman either. I’m sure I know this guy – the beard, the build. Paul Bunyan? No, that’s not it…
“The tooth fairy looks just like Daddy!” She holds up her picture, smiling.
“In a Mr. Peanut costume,” I add. And in fact, the drawing is a mash-up of the two.
“Will Daddy go to Rachel’s house, too?” A friend down the street had been working on a loose tooth of her own.
“No honey, every family has its very own tooth fairy,” I assure her. But for one very funny and awful second, I am picturing my husband in a tutu climbing in the neighbor’s window, wholly committed to his newly acquired vocation.
“That’s good,” she said. And when she closes her eyes, she’s at peace, convinced that Daddy is the tooth fairy. He autographed his picture that night, and left it, with a dollar, under Dottie. He’s been on the job for over ten years.