Our children are big believers in any fantastical creatures that can visit your house throughout the year and leave gifts. I had a bit of a problem preventing elf-mania from taking over our household last Christmas, but I lucked out. And don’t think I miss the irony in having a child who knows all about sex yet still professes to believe in Santa.
Additionally, the boys like to write notes for Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, quizzing them about their diet, their habitat and other random facts. In my view, a smart parent will take those notes, carefully date them on the back, and file them away for safekeeping so you can pull them out in twenty years and remember how precious it was when Sammy asked for a machete for Christmas.
Bill believes that these notes should be answered, despite the many dangerous issues raised by the practice. What if the child wakes while the note is gone? What if the child recognizes handwriting or a turn of phrase? What if the answers given to one child are inconsistent with those given to another? I have voiced each of these concerns in the past and have succeeded in convincing Bill to take the notes and run.
However, the boys are getting older. Last week Finn confided to Bill that he had detected several black hairs in his armpit, and maybe one near his willie. The next day Finn lost a molar and left it, along with a lengthy questionnaire, under his pillow for the Tooth Fairy.
In light of the possible pubic hair sighting, Bill grew misty-eyed over the thought that his days as the Fairy were coming to an end. He delivered a dollar, returned with Finn’s note, and demanded that I respond to it.
“What the hell?” I asked. “You know my position on this. It’s foolhardy. Plus, the kid already knows about sex. You don’t really think he still believes in the Tooth Fairy, do you?”
“What does the Tooth Fairy have to do with making sweet love, honey?” Bill asked. “Not a damn thing. Our kids are getting older and we won’t have these years forever. We’ll be in our rocking chairs at the old folks’ home drinking iced tea and you’re going to wish we’d answered these letters when our boys were little.”
“Okay Mr. Old Folks,” I conceded. “You can answer it.”
“But you’re the writer,” Bill begged. “You’re so great at this stuff. I can’t think of anything to say.” He looked at me pleadingly.
“I won’t do it,” I said.
“You will,” Bill said, “because I’m such a talented Fairy that I took all your New Yorkers and I’m holding them hostage until you answer Finn’s note.”
I glanced by my bed and swore. All that was there were the remnants of the Sunday Times and a tattered Us Weekly.
“Hand it over,” I said darkly. I looked at the note.
Finn had asked all kinds of questions. The damn thing looked like an employment application. I had law school exams that took less time to complete.
I grabbed a pen and in fairy-like writing, painstakingly began filling out the form. When I was done, I had created Tooth Fairy Queen Helene, female occupant of Cloud #9. Bill tried to fall asleep while I answered the questions on the Tooth Fairy’s behalf, but I stuck a washcloth under some cold water and slapped it on his belly and this kept him wide awake so he could suffer, too. Here’s the finished product:
This took place the same day as my day of beauty, which is why the Tooth Fairy ended up with the name Queen Helene. And as long as I was undertaking the project, I got in a few digs about Finn’s spelling and his messy room. Sighing, I handed the note back to Bill.
“This is the dumbest thing I have ever done as a parent,” I said.
Bill didn’t share my attitude. He read my answers and howled. “You’re awesome, honey!” he said. “Finn will love this! How do you think this stuff up?”
Before Bill put the note back under Finn’s pillow, I insisted that he accompany me to the basement to scan the document so we’d have a record of the Tooth Fairy’s answers. That way she could be consistent if questioned closely again. Bill thought scanning the Tooth Fairy letter was a bit much, but I wanted to be certain the Tooth Fairy had a stable identity.
Scanning the note was a brilliant idea. The next day Drew’s orthodontist recommended that he have two teeth pulled as soon as possible. Two nights later, Bill was the Fairy again, and returned to the bedroom with yet another note.
Drew’s letter was actually pretty cute, and much less like a government document. The stars and picture were endearing and made a much better impression on me.
I took the note to the basement and looked up my answers to Finn’s questionnaire, and then filled out Drew’s. I was consistent, yet I added a few interesting details about Queen Helene’s life.
The following week Porter broke his front permanent tooth in half during gym. Drew, ever resourceful, retrieved the broken piece and accompanied Porter to the health room where they called Bill after they were unable to reach me. According to Bill, Porter was upset that his tooth would be glued back together immediately, and that he would not be allowed an evening to leave the shard under his pillow, collect on it, and then submit it for reconstruction.
When they came home, Finn and Drew were equally mad, because while Porter was at the dentist, they’d assembled a paper plate full of miniature marshmallows and had a cup and tea bag ready to make tea for Queen Helene’s visit. I made Bill break the news that Porter’s tooth was whole again and that Queen Helene would not be flying over that night.
Although I thought answering the notes would surely reveal the Tooth Fairy’s true identity, so far the boys have not appeared to catch on. Finn has lectured his brothers about the importance of never asking a lady her age, as it is impolite, so at least they learned some good manners from the whole thing.
I never thought I’d say it, but I’ve actually enjoyed the whole experience. Watching the boys set out tea and marshmallows for Queen Helene was entertaining.
Bill is right.
These days won’t last forever.