My son, Steven, comes out of the bathroom and finds me folding the wash. With his mouth open, his braces blocking my view, and his words garbled because he’s speaking with his finger pointing at something inside his mouth, he says, “See.”
“My tooth is gone,” he says. He reopens his mouth to point once again at the space.
“Yup, looks it.”
“I think I swallowed it in my sleep,” he says.
“Or when you were eating.”
“I would have known if I swallowed it when I was eating.”
“ Probably. Did you check in your bed?”
“Already did that.”
“Well, then it’s gone.”
“Do I get money anyway?”
“I don’t think so. Think the Tooth Fairy needs the tooth.”
“Mo-o-om,” he says in a three-syllable stretch.
I know he’s known almost from the first tooth who the Tooth Fairy is. I’m not even sure he ever believed in the fantasy. It’s one of the hazards of being the youngest sibling. Older kids always spoil the fantasies way too soon.
“But that’s not fair.” He doesn’t wait for my response. “I know. I know. Life’s not fair. But that’s not fair.”
“It still could be in your stomach. You could still get it.” I’m laughing at him as I continue to fold some towels.
“Mom, that’s gross.”
“Well, you could.”
“Only a suggestion.”
Steven sulks out of the room, unaware that the Tooth Fairy will be visiting his pillow anyway.
* * *
I hear him down the hall discussing the lost tooth with his dad. “But Da-a-a-d,” I hear him say, “that’s not fair.”
Then I hear him say, “You’re just as gross as Mom.”
* * *
Later in the day I observe Steven pointing into his mouth showing his brother the space. His brother shrugs, and goes back to the Playstation game he’s engrossed him.
Steven sulks down the hall to his room.
“You’re not gonna stiff him, Mom. Are you?” his brother asks.
“Why are you asking me?” I say. “Do I look like the Tooth Fairy?”
“Come on, Mom. That’s not fair. I always got money for my teeth.”
Shocked at his brotherly concern, I look at him cross-eyed. “You always had a tooth to give the Tooth Fairy.”
“That’s not fair.”
“Life’s not fair.” I snap off the TV. “Now, go make your bed and clean up your room.”
“Mom! I was in the middle of a game.”
“Life’s not fair. Now go clean your room.”
* * *
My daughter does us a favor and joins us for dinner. Now that she has her license and her own car, she “visits” with us, on occasion.
“Let me see, Stevie,” she says. She’s the only one who gets away with calling him this nickname. Steven is a “Steven” except to his big sister.
He opens his mouth. There is still food in it, but he points to the space anyway.
Across the table, my other son says, “Gross. Finish swallowing first, Pig.”
My daughter is more indulgent. “What’s that now? Like nine teeth?”
“Uh huh,” Steven answers, “but this one isn’t going under my pillow. I can’t find it. It’s gone.”
“I’m sure the Tooth Fairy will visit anyway. Maybe you should write her a note. Good idea, Mom?” She is staring at me, as if teasing, as if being in on a secret, a great conspiracy.
“Waste of time,” I say. “No tooth. Tooth Fairy wants a tooth.”
“Mom, that’s not fair.” She looks toward my husband for support.
“Life’s not fair,” he says.
* * *
Before we go to sleep, my husband hands me an 1887 silver dollar to put under Steven’s pillow. My husband has a few of these old silver dollars he’s been saving for special occasions. It’s been a tough day for Steven.
The house is quiet. I slip into Steven’s room. He is a sound sleeper. I slide my hand under his pillow to leave the silver dollar and I feel paper rustling. Thinking he left the Tooth Fairy a note, I pull it out, and I leave Steven to dream with the special treasure under his pillow.
I get into my bed to share the note with my husband. I’m sure it’s going to be charming.
We’re both already charmed by the fact that Steven has put his note in an envelope.
On the outside of the envelope, in my daughter’s handwriting, it says, “You don’t need a tooth. I knew anyway!” She signs it, “The Tooth Fairy” with a heart over the “i.”
There is a P.S. in our older son’s handwriting, “Don’t chew with your mouth open. It’s gross.” We hold the envelope up to the light to see what’s inside; it looks like a two-dollar-bill.
“Where’d they get that?” I say aloud.
My husband takes the envelope from me. “Don’t you remember? That’s what we used to leave for THEM when THEY lost their teeth.”
“But now Steven’s getting three dollars,” I say.
“Life’s not fair,” my husband says as he goes down the hall to put the envelope back under Steven’s pillow.