The tooth fairy didn’t come again last night. It was a shocking disappointment.
I walked into the twin’s room, ready to cuddle them awake, get them dressed, hustle them downstairs for breakfast, and I found my seven-year-old daughter still in bed, surrounded by her pajama’ed siblings, near tears. When I walked in the room, all four of them turned and looked at me.
“You must have been up late last night,” my daughter said, her voice a whisper. I shook the sleep from my head and contemplated the meaning. What could she be saying?
“Because the tooth fairy didn’t come last night,” her eight-year-old brother added meaningfully.
I was aghast. How could this have happened? Again?
The first time the tooth fairy didn’t come I awoke groggily to find my twins standing by my bed, staring at me, willing me to wake up. My son was wiping away tears, my daughter had her arm around his shoulders, comforting him.
“The tooth faiwy didn’t come last night,” he’d sniffed.
And I was mad. Damn fairy and her damn flakiness.
“I’ll buy you something special if she doesn’t come tonight,” I’d said.
“Leth give her a few dayth, Mama. Thee’s busy,” he’d said generously.
But this morning I just felt disappointed. Is it really so hard to show up with a dollar and slip it under her pillow? And maybe throw in a fairy note with glitter and a little picture in response to her little note?
When my children ask me about magical creatures, I say I don’t know. I don’t know who they are or where they live. Other people can take a guess, make a book or movie about them, but really, who knows? I’m not even wholly comfortable with them sneaking into my house at night in their tights, sliding down the chimney, hopping down the bunny trail, fluttering through the tiny crack of our windows carting off their precious baby teeth. The whole thing makes me uncomfortable, these intruders of the night.
Because the house is mine in the dark of night, after everyone has gone to sleep.
Each night I walk into their bedrooms scooping up dirty laundry, putting baseball cards, doll clothing and Legos in their respective places, setting right each night all the things that have become mussed up throughout the day. I lay out their clothes for the day, lay out shoes in the mudroom, winter coats or baseball caps depending on the season.
Then I sneak into their rooms and kiss them on the tops of their heads, on an outstretched arm or the sliver of shoulder exposed by an oversized nightshirt, and I smooth down their blankets or pull up the sheets.
It is my time to get after my to-do list, prepare for the next day, survey the landscape of our home to see what the day has left.
And then eventually, after all is still and every last bit of motherly possibility has been wrung from the day, I finally succumb to the pull of bed myself. On those nights when my children are awaiting the arrival of a bunny or elf or fairy, I’m likely lying in bed tallying my day as a mother.
Coached their lacrosse team, check. Remembered to pack their dance leotards, check. Showed up for their piano recital rehearsal, check. Volunteered for that thing at school so that they could be the cool kid whose mom was there, check.
Yelled at them like crazy because they were being slightly naughty on the sideline, fail. Forgot to send in the check so that she could get her dance recital costume, fail. Believed the teacher over my son when she said he punched somebody and he insisted he pushed somebody but then she later sent me an email saying that she meant to say he pushed somebody, fail.
Each night I mostly just hope that my do right list outweighs my did wrong, that the sweetness I managed to muster at odd intervals was enough to smooth over all the rough places.
And they lay asleep, awaiting the arrival of a fairy on glittery wings to slip through the crack in their windows, to tiptoe across the windowsill leaving a faint track of fairydust, a finger to her lips gently hushing herself as she flutters to my daughter’s pillow for the dear sweet note and the tiny kernel of a tooth, so much sharper and less weighty than one could ever imagine for something that so recently played such a prominent role in her sweet smile.
I picture the tooth fairy unscrolling the special heavy white paper she always uses to write notes from her wee knapsack and then holding the pen aloft to scribble a reply to the sleeping child, drawing a picture, tossing her tiny fist to cover it with glitter.
Then, after the note is settled under my daughter’s pillow and the tooth is tucked in her knapsack, she flies off to her own little fairy house, a glittering white dwelling, built of the tiny, pearly teeth of generations of children in my family. Inside that home I picture a rabbit’s warren of small rooms with her own sleeping children nestled in their beds.
And I can’t help but wonder, as she returns from hustling and bustling out in the great big world, to kiss each of her children on their minute iridescent curls, if she ever forgets to reach beneath their heads to steal away a tiny tooth, no bigger than a grain of sand.
I imagine she forgets their teeth sometimes, too, and so I decide to forgive her for this terrible oversight last night. She’s only a mother after all.
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