Francie lost her first tooth last week. After several very dramatic days which saw her lying on the couch with cold compresses to ease the worry [in another time she’d surely have been a candidate for smelling salts], the tooth finally broke free. Talk of the Tooth Fairy began immediately.
“Whatever, there is no tooth fairy.” Bennett announced.
“Yes there is,” said Efram. “It’s you. You told me that you put the money under my pillow when I lost a tooth.”
As much as I’d like Bennett to continue to take credit for all the good things that happen around here, I had to chime in: “That makes no sense. If Bennett is the Tooth Fairy, then who gave him money when he lost a tooth?” Efram looked off into the distance to think about this for a while. Bennett was immediately distracted by something more interesting than this conversation — a ball of string, a piece of lint. I swear he is part cat.
Later on the conversation continued. Bennett said to me, “Come on. I know it’s you. Just tell me. You’re the Tooth Fairy, right?”
I gave him my very best Guantanamo face: “I can neither confirm nor deny this.”
“Come on, just tell me. I won’t tell Francie.” Which is when I knew I had him. Because that would be the FIRST thing he’d do with his new information. [One of my closest pals had the same thing happen to her, but she cracked and told her firstborn the hard, bitter truth. Not me.] So, I just repeated myself until he got distracted. It didn’t take long. But before he left the room I did say this: “When you were five nobody told you there wasn’t a Tooth Fairy. You got to enjoy it. Let’s give her the same experience if we can.” Again, I neither confirmed nor denied anything.
Of course this wasn’t the last I’d heard. Later that day the boys tried to break me. Again. This time Efram took the lead.
“What about Santa Clause? [A favorite topic] Do all those little Christian boys and girls really believe a big man comes down the chimney with presents? What if they’ve lit a fire? Then what?”
I wanted to say, hey buddy, you think that a guy stood in front of an ocean, waived a stick around and the ocean split in two so that all of you ancestors could run to freedom. But I wasn’t in the mood to tear apart biblical mythology. Not on that day anyway. So I repeated my lines and quickly left the room.
That night Francie got a couple of dollars and the following note under her pillow: Dear Francie, I just love your beautiful tooth! Thank you so much for taking such lovely care of your mouth. Please keep up the good work, and the good brushing. Oh, and congratulations on losing your first tooth. You really are quite brave. Love, the Tooth Fairy. (P.S.: Please give my love to your brothers and remind them that YES, I do exist!”)
She ran out to breakfast waving the note in the hands. “See! She does exist! She is real!” Bennett kept his mouth shut, looked up from the sports page and winked at me. At least for now he’s on my side. We’ll keep her in the dark together.
Speaking of being in the dark, I spent 24 hours away from M and the kids. It was really quite lovely. As I am driving home, reading to re-enter the daily chaos of life, even missing the children slightly, I start to get text messages: “How is Bennett’s wrist?” “Oooh, so sorry to hear about the arm.” and “Heard the crappy news. Need anything?”
WHAT? By the time I walk in the front door I am worked up into a full fury. Poor M, who has been alone with the Fearsome Five for well over a day, looks terrified. Turns out that two years after he needed to be on crutches [for some reason which evades me now], one year after the mallet finger incident, and days after the staff infection/allergic reaction that had the little bugger on bed rest, Bennett fell spectacularly while learning how to snowboard and broke his arm… in several places. Nice big cast. And for six weeks no swimming, no skiing, no running, no guitar.. the boy who can’t sit still has to do just that. Again. It seems that it was all rather dramatic, even for us, and involved the Ski Patrol, some sort of high powered sled, a case of mistaken identity [the first kid M saw come down was on a stretcher with an oxygen mask. the poor guy almost passed out there and then.], and a splint made of carpet foam, cardboard and tape. Frankly, it looks like the sort of thing Bennett regularly constructs for himself. Have a look:
Truly, you cannot make up this stuff. [Consequently, this morning M took him to the Orthopedics people at Children’s Hospital and he’s now sporting a blue cast that we’ve all signed. What I really wanted to write: NEVER DO THIS AGAIN.]
When I asked him what the hell he was thinking, keeping me in the dark for 24 hours, M told me he wanted me to enjoy my trip without the knowledge of the snowboard fiasco. And he’d polled a couple of friends who backed him up. But I could’ve handled it. I wouldn’t have rushed home. I would have had time to digest it, and not the sixty seconds I had after the flurry of messages. I wouldn’t have felt ambushed by the news.
Once I’d calmed down I realized that M was only trying to do to me what I’ve been doing to Francie. And perhaps it’s nice to be in the dark even it’s only for a short, fleeting while. You have your fun, live in ignorance and eventually you get the crappy news. There is no tooth fairy. Your son broke his arm. And despite years of believing otherwise, apparently you really can have both a wrinkle and a zit at the very same time. On the very same day.