Tooth Fairy has left the building.
Tooth Fairy was already semi-retired, her true identity discovered long ago by my savvy third child. Perhaps his 18 year old sister planted seeds of suspicion in his mind. She knew from the first time she placed a tooth under her pillow, but played along, gamely writing notes to Tooth Fairy for years. Often Tooth Fairy didn’t make it to our house before morning, and she was forced to leave an apology note and to pay a late fee.
I don’t know why I’m getting all choked up about the fact that my son has just lost his last baby tooth, a tenacious molar that’s been hanging around for months of wiggling.
I am simply unprepared for the sense of loss I feel.
* * * * * * *
He is despondent during dinner, complaining that everything tastes metallic. For dessert, I warm some water in the tea kettle and stir in a heaping teaspoon of salt.
His 15 year old sister cheers him on: “Gargle!”
“Just be sure to swish it all around,” I tell him.
Later, when he is brushing his teeth before bed, I hear a soft plink of tooth enamel on Formica.
“It’s out!” He sounds like he is underwater. Then he spits unceremoniously into the sink and enunciates clearly, “Slip of the toothbrush.”
“I’m so happy for you. It wasn’t even my tooth and I couldn’t wait,” I say, giddy with relief. The loose tooth stage of childhood presented my greatest challenge as a parent for nearly a decade of my life. I am ready to face a new era of motherhood.
My reverie is interrupted by the opening gambit of an 11 year old litigator:
“I’m not putting this under my pillow,” he announces in a world-weary tone. “Either give me the money up front or forget it. It’s over.”
I can’t help but laugh as I reach for my wallet. But when he asks me if he should throw the tooth away, I wrap it carefully in a tissue. Then I grab another to wipe my eyes.