The surface of the shelves in Princess Commando’s room are a three dimensional collage of her fascinations, mementos, and imagination. A whimsical timeline of her life- Pokemon figurines from 4th grade, the beach glass she held in her four year old hands, a rubber bracelet her older brother gave her to support some relief effort somewhere in the world, a fancy tin box with the words ‘Random Crap’ painted in vintage letters, birthday cards and special messages from her teachers, little creatures roughly sewn with her nimble fingers.
How much of myself am I allowed to be? It’s been the question of middle school. That potholed road lurching the wagon and jostling resolve. I tell her that as long as she keeps letting the goodness of her heart seep into the world, she should always to be true to herself. But being true is sometimes discomforting. Sometimes it causes an unwelcoming glance or builds cardboard walls between her and those who are fickle to her friendship.
Being true and longing to belong becomes a tricky balance. As she is maturing, she is beginning to understand that she does not need to sacrifice her beliefs and amusements for others approval. But, she chooses to stow them safely away instead of advertising them like badges on a backpack. The shelves are the altar she kneels before to remember former comforts and certainties.
I was dusting her room one day-gingerly trying not to disrupt the order of things. But as I maneuvered my dust cloth into the tight spaces between the objects my clumsy fingers rattled the shelf and like dominoes the figures and trinkets tumbled. One little box and its contents spilled onto the table below. There were four baby teeth scattered between the lid and the box. And piece of paper folded a hundred times so that it was no bigger than a tooth. I carefully uncreased the paper. In her tight and tidy hand writing it said, ‘Long live the Tooth Fairy.’
It’s been two years since her faith in the Tooth Fairy dissolved. It was a milestone in her life- the first which marked a transition from childhood to preadolescence-an agonizing awakening. Seeing those baby teeth- the ones that fell out after a new truth was told- made me want to tuck $5 into the box just for her effort to remain reverent to the parts of herself that once were. I tenderly scooped up the little pearls and put them back in the box along with the piece of paper, fastened the lid and placed it back on the shelf. Even though so much has changed for her in flash of time, as long as that box remains up there, the Tooth Fairy lives.