My two oldest children are 13 and 11 years old, which means that they are just about done losing teeth. This is a good thing, because there are few things creepier than tiptoeing into a pre-teens room in the dead of night, swathed only in a bed sheet or boxer shorts (depending on who’s playing Tooth Fairy that night) with the aim of slipping money under a pillow soaked with slobber.
Well, that might not be the creepiest thing a parent could do under these circumstances, but we’ll get to that.
While the girls have recently abandoned their belief in the Tooth Fairy, Stone and Liya (the 8 and 7 year olds) hold firm and fast to the belief in her powers. The Tooth Fairy is most certainly a ‘her’ – logically. Dispensing money for losing a body part is not the province of men. I can’t wait to inform them of the contrary when the time is right. I can’t be the Tooth Fairy. While my husband is easily ignored, my children are hardwired to sense my presence, even when they are in the throes of a coma-like slumber. You should see my husband slip in and out of their rooms undetected. He’s surprisingly stealthy, despite his size.
Two nights ago, Stone lost his tooth. A week before that, Liya lost a denticle in a similar position. And never one to be outdone by her brother, she is gearing up to again lose a wiggly fang in the coming days. I used to give a dollar per lost tooth in the old days, but with two children so close in age losing body parts in tandem, I’ve had to reduce the reward to fifty cents. Plus, the economy.
The Tooth Fairy’s appearance and effectiveness have a direct relationship with the amount of change I have lying around in the bottom of my purse. If we have to make an unanticipated trip through a toll or a jaunt into the Kwik Spar for gum, the chances that she will perform her duties on time and as anticipated lessen considerably. Who carries around cash/change any more? So when Liya lost her tooth the other night and woke to a tightly sealed envelope still bearing the load of her excavated incisor, we blamed it on the storm that had passed over our neighborhood the previous night.
“The poor Tooth Fairy’s wings were no match for all that wind and rain,” I said with a straight face.
As expected, Liya prayed for clear skies to follow on the following night. When the Tooth Fairy failed to lumber his way into the room on Monday night, Stone was not so easily placated the following morning. He agreed with me that the Tooth Fairy was lazy and unserious about her work, but was willing to give her (aka his father) another chance by resealing the envelope and going through the ritual exercise again. How magnanimous.
The deed done, Marshall came creeping back into our bedroom around 10 pm. I tracked his movements in the gloom, and noticed something that had never struck me before.
“Did you just throw Stone’s tooth in your drawer?”
While we are not quite hoarders (yet), my family does struggle with throwing things out. For me, it’s difficult to imagine throwing away something as utilitarian as a tooth, even if it has voluntarily extracted itself from one’s mouth.
“I have never thrown out any of their teeth. Have you?”
“Nope. They’re all around here somewhere. I think I put one in the jewelry box…”
“Holmigawsh! Can you imagine their faces when they stumble across all of their teeth one day?”
Huh. Okay. How about we imagine that together?
The year is 2068 and my husband and I are dead. (I figure another 50 years in this life is adequate.) My children, now likely parents – or possibly grandparents – have the awesome task of clearing out my husband’s and my belongings. What needs to be sold will be, what items have been bequeathed will be received with all gladness or none at all.
“You’ve always hated Mommy’s Frosty the Snowman salt shakers. Why did she leave them to you?”
“Precisely because I hated them,” Nadjah will reply sardonically. (Our relationship has and probably always will be predicated on the need for one of us to torture the other.)
In the hours that follow, the children will giggle and gasp over the mementos from their lives that I have lovingly preserved in flip files and 3-ring binders: leaf and macaroni art, handprints on canvas, certificates of participation…
A shriek cuts into the air. It’s Aya. She’s pointing to the floor.
“Christ on His Holy throne! What is that?!”
Liya leaps to her feet and begins brushing her clothing violently. “What? What is it? Is it a cockroach?” (She shares my irrational fear of those shiny, flying demons.)
Stone reaches in the direction of Aya’s pointing finger, retrieving the offending item in a pincer grasp. He examines it silently. “It looks like a tooth,” he concludes.
“What dah f***!” (That’ll be Nadjah, now free to curse as much as she wants to in her mother’s house. Her mother’s rules no longer govern her life. Her mother is, after all, dead.)
“Language!” Aya seethes.
“Language? Really? You’re worried about my language when there’s a God d….”
Aya silences her with a look. Profanity is one thing, but taking the Lord’s name in vain is a bridge too far. Nadjah adjusts herself accordingly.
“…when there’s a f***ing tooth in Mom’s panty drawer?”
“Look,” says Stone. “There’s another one. It’s in the china.”
Liya is now beside herself. She cannot fathom what this discovery truly means.
“You GUYS! We ate off those dishes every holiday! You mean Mommy was hiding teeth in them all along?”
BWAHAHAHAHA!!! Y’all! Can you see it? Can you see their faces? I’m screaming, y’all! Okay. Let’s continue.
An unsettling thought crosses Aya’s mind.
“Who…whose teeth do you think they are?”
“Mommy and Daddy were always taking people and their children in. These teeth could belong to anybody. Literally.”
“Even some of our kids…”
“That’s just gross.”
I know, I cackle from beyond the grave
While the girls are having discussions about the madness of their mother, Stone – my little sleuth – slogs his way through boxes of receipts, fabric cut into patterns but never sewn into their intended destiny and half empty containers of natural hair products.
“Guys,” he mutters, “come and look at this.”
Because Stone is and always has been a man of so few words, they scramble quickly to his side. It must be important.
He holds up before him a Ziploc bag full of toddler, big kid and pre-teen teeth. A trove of teeth. A life time of teeth. The envy of George Washington’s fiendish dentist.
My son is horrified and fascinated at once.
Aya begins to cry.
Nadjah’s mouth has (finally) gone numb and dry.
It is Liya who breaks the stalemate. A decision has to be made, and though she’s the youngest, she the only one brave enough to articulate it.
“Burn it. Burn the whole house down. Right now.”
Nadjah nods her head in agreement. “I’ll start the blaze with the Frosty salt & pepper shakers.”
“I don’t think ceramic is combustible…”
“Shut up, Stone! No one asked you to physics the situation!”
“Bring wood and oil,” Aya whispers solemnly. “Set a fire to this flesh.”
Oh, fix your face! You know good and well that you’ve got your teeth hidden somewhere in your personal things. There’s nothing strange about it. Heck, we got whole presidents who kept their children’s bodies on display at home for months because they couldn’t let go. Look it up.
And you single/childless people reading this going, “Ewww! I would never…!” Mmmmhmmm. I know. I would never either. But just you wait and watch.