|Yep, just like that, they all passed away. And, that was supposed to be a tooth-not a heart- on the Tooth Fairy's tombstone; but, the offering of teeth is covering it.|
Well, it had to happen some day. On Saturday morning, I was working in my office, when Princess Commando approached me with discretion.
“Can I talk to you?” She was unusually timid.
“Are you feeling okay?” The gravity of her voice worried me.
“It’s not that,” she stared me square in the eyes and took a deep breath. I could see that she was trying to keep her voice from quivering. “ It’s just that you must be the one who was writing all of the letters from the Tooth Fairy (she bowed her head and her eyes grew insanely humongous like they had been replaced with Anime eyes of sadness) because it has been three weeks since I put a note in the box and I haven’t gotten anything back.”
Oh, no! Had I forgotten to look in the box? No, I must have checked at least 3 times. No, she had been testing me. I did ask her on various occasions since Christmas if she had written to the Tooth Fairy. And, each time she answered, “No.”
I had but a fraction of a second to make the decision which would either perpetuate her innocent belief in all things magical or pierce her candy colored balloon of childhood fancy with a coming of age truth.
“What do you believe?” I asked.
She was sensing by the omission of my usual vehement denial of her claims, that maybe there was verity to her accusation. She crawled onto my lap and forlornly buried her face deep into my shoulder. “I don’t know what to believe. I want to believe that she is real.”
I stroked her hair. “But what if she is not real? What would that mean?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders.“Would it mean that it was any less special to lose a tooth- to have been rewarded for a lost tooth?”
“No, I guess not.”
She was not falling to pieces. She was wounded; but, she was ready. This was different than the other times she had asked us for reassurance of the authenticity of the figures she believed to be real. Now, she was asking for The Truth, the grown up truth, even though she anticipated the answer might not be what she wanted to hear.
“I am sorry. I wanted you to keep believing. It is not that the Tooth Fairy is not real. I mean I am not sure if there ever was someone way back in time who wore a tutu and carried a magic wand, exchanging children’s lost teeth for coins and Pokemon cards. But, I do know that the spirit of the Tooth Fairy is real. The reason why you receive a gift for a lost tooth is because losing a tooth is a rite of passage. It is special. It means that you are growing up. This is one small way to celebrate that.”
“And, now I don’t know if the others are real. Santa and the Easter Bunny.”
“What are your friends saying?”
“Some say that it is stupid to believe and others say that they are real.”
“It’s not stupid to believe. Here’s the thing- what we are really believing in is the spirit of all of those figures. The spirit of giving to others. For parents, playing the Tooth Fairy is another excuse to spoil our kids. The spirit makes us want to do something special for them. At Christmastime, the spirit of Santa is alive when we do things for others, help those in need." (I emphasized the word "spirit" so many times that later on that day when someone else used the word in a totally different context, she broke down and cried at the remembrance of what she felt she was losing).
We recalled the years that our neighbors joined together at Christmastime and adopted families in need. We remembered how good it felt to buy presents for the children and how much joy we shared when we attended the gift wrapping party with our neighbors. I reminded her that we never even got to meet the families or find out what they thought about the gifts. But, we felt good anyway. She nodded through my speech in understanding; but, I knew that the question that was weighing most heavily on her mind was whether or not she would still receive presents on Christmas day. I assured her that she would be just fine. I also told her that she had a very grown up task to carry out now that she is a fellow keeper of The Truth. She must keep the spirit alive- she must still listen for the sound of the bells and look for the subtle shimmer of fairy dust because The Baby will still believe and we are the keepers of that magic, too. She seemed to enjoy the importance that had been bestowed on her.
I thought that when the day came for the truth to be revealed to Princess Commando, I would be relieved. No more staying on my toes, balancing the charade I had become entangled in to keep up with her elaborate, beautiful imagination. No more worrying that I will slip up and destroy the enchantments of childhood. But, honestly, it has only made me sad. This is one more sign that the older kids are not babies anymore. It is true what they say, children grow up so fast. The upside is that this is, also, one more reminder, one more opportunity, to stop and inhale deeply, slowly, appreciatively- the fact that there is still one more baby left in the house. One baby who will undoubtedly put her bright, pure faith in the spirit-no, the magic- of fairies and Santa Claus and will employ me as the keeper of that magic for at least 8 more years.