Little One, our soon-to-be 6-year-old granddaughter, yelled for her Big Papa as she bounded down our basement steps yesterday. Covering her mouth with her hands, she ran around the basement franticly searching for me.
At first, I thought her little sister had done something to injure her, but this time Sweet Caroline was innocent. Little One finally found me and using a finger she wiggled a front bottom tooth, smiled and said, “I got my first loose tooth! The Tooth Fairy will come soon!”
The history of the flying tooth-gathering fairy stretches way before the time my three brothers, The Sister and me lived on Flamingo. Seems every culture has a tradition to deal with loss of children’s baby teeth, that first marker of a child’s transition toward adulthood.
In America, our modern version of the Tooth Fairy was born from the 1927 childhood play by Ester Watkins Arnold. After a child loses the tooth, they leave it under their pillow at bedtime, and in the morning, they see it’s magically been replaced with money. But just how much money? The amount varies, even when I was a kid.
Growing up on Flamingo, when the tooth fairy visited, she left money, but it was a different amount for each of us. Mom said the bigger the tooth, the more money left, and Dad said we get more money for a cleaner tooth.
For my first, I only got a quarter. I couldn’t do anything about the size of my teeth, but I could brush and floss them better. That’s why I begged my parents for a Water Pik. It used a jet of water to clean in-between teeth instead of flossing. And, with a quart reservoir of water, it had plenty extra to squirt your brothers with. After a month, I had cleaner teeth and another loose tooth, but I had to somehow get it to fall out faster.
Saturday morning, Big Brother James tied the thread around my tooth and to the doorknob, but Older Brother Richard slammed the door. We tried this three times, but it wouldn’t give. It took a direct hit with a water balloon that afternoon for the tooth to finally fall out. (The next time, Dad used a pair of rusty pliers to pull my tooth. I liked the water balloon way of extracting much better.)
That night I placed my shiny white tooth under my pillow and in the morning was rewarded with a Kennedy half dollar! From that day on, I’ve brushed and flossed not only after each meal, but also any time after I’ve eaten anything. Funny, haven’t thought about why I do that until my little curly haired basement visitor with the loose tooth.
As Little One wiggled her loose tooth with her finger, I said, “When it falls out, don’t put it under your pillow. We’ll just plant it in the garden and grow you a twin sister!”
She giggled and hugged me, “Papa, that’s not true.”
Looking down at the angel in my arms, “Remember, Little One. Tooth Fairy gives more money for cleaner teeth.” She believed that and happily ran back upstairs to brush again.
How far can a fairy tale travel down the pathway of truth before being discovered? For our granddaughters, I hope that will be many years from now because traveling down that pathway this week toward our house for the first time will be the Tooth Fairy.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog: storiesbyrick.wordpress.com.]