(This post is part of my yearlong series, 40 New Things at 40.)
Some people have asked me for the complete list of my #40newthingsat40, but I didn’t make one in advance. I had some ideas written down before I started, but others I knew would be new experiences that would arise organically because of all the recent changes in my life. One of those happened when my 7-year-old stepson lost a tooth. He was wiggling and pulling at it all evening, and when he brushed his teeth that night, it pretty quickly fell out. He immediately started wondering what the Tooth Fairy would leave him.
When my husband and I put the boys to bed that night, B put his tooth in the Ziplock bag his dad gave him and carefully placed it under his pillow. The grownups went downstairs to watch TV and unwind for a while, and to give B time to fall deeply asleep. When we went back upstairs to get ready for bed, Will asked me, “Do you want to do this?” He had a Ziplock bag with a few dollars inside in his hand. I took it from him, nodding excitedly. While he went to put on pajamas, I tiptoed down the dark hallway toward B’s bedroom. A few steps outside his door, I hit the creaky spot in the floor. As it squeaked loudly, I held my breath, thinking I heard B stir in his bed. I didn’t dare move again until I was sure there was only silence behind his door.
When the HVAC unit kicked on, I trusted that the white noise would provide me sufficient cover. I took the last few steps quickly, then carefully pushed open the bedroom door. By the dim blue glow of B’s night light, I could see his little face turned toward me, but his eyes were closed and he was still. As I approached the bed, I could see where his hand disappeared under the pillow. To my horror, when I lifted the pillow, I found that he had the tooth bag in his hand. I froze for a few seconds, then took a deep breath and attempted to pull the bag from his grasp as gently as I could. Suddenly his fingers twitched and his breathing began to change. He’s waking up! I told myself. Abort mission! Abort mission!
My husband was watching TV when I crept back into our bedroom. “What took you so long?” he asked. Embarrassed, I held up the bag of cash still in my hand. He laughed as I told him the story of my first failed attempt at Tooth-Fairy-hood. For a moment, I wondered if my parents had ever had this much trouble sneaking around in my bedroom at night to put dollar bills under my pillow all those years ago. I gathered my courage for a second attempt and went back down the hall.
B still had his hand on the bag under his pillow, but I had decided what I was going to do. I would slide my bag of cash into his hand and then quickly pull out the bag with the tooth. An easy switch, I thought. The first step went well. I slid the cash bag carefully under B’s outstretched hand. All I had to do was retrieve the tooth bag and I was home free. I began to tug ever so slightly at the bag in B’s hand. In response, he moved his arm, still holding the original bag, but managing to knock the money bag off the bed. Cursing under my breath, I tried to find the bag on the dark floor, but it was no use. Defeated, I went back to our bedroom empty handed.
Will giggled through my whole telling of the story this time. “It’s like the worst heist movie of all time,” he laughed, calling me “Ocean’s 1.” I buried my head under my pillow and mumbled, “What am I going to do?!” The hour was getting later and later, and I was exhausted. I decided that I would just have to make up some excuse in the morning as to why the Tooth Fairy had not taken his tooth. I put on pajamas, washed my face, brushed my teeth, got into bed, and turned off the light. But as I tried to go to sleep, B’s potential disappointment weighed on me. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting down this kid I had grown to love so much. Sighing loudly, I told my husband, “I have to go get that tooth.”
Once again, I made my way quietly down the hall. I waited for the HVAC kick to cover my noisy step over the creaky floor joist, then wasted no time entering B’s room. I decided that this time I would just rip off the proverbial Band-Aid. Spotting the bag in his hand, I silently counted to three, grabbed it, and sunk quickly to the floor. I heard B groan and turn over, but his breathing quickly returned to his normal sleep rhythm and I made my way to the door. I didn’t allow myself to relax until I was back in my own bedroom. Relieved, I hid the tooth in my dresser drawer and quickly fell asleep.
The next morning as we got ready for church, I asked B, “How much did the Tooth Fairy leave you?”
He looked sad as he replied, “Nothing. He took the tooth but didn’t leave me any money.”
“Hmm,” I said faux-thoughtfully. “Did you check around your bed and behind it? Because sometimes you can accidentally knock the money bag off the bed in your sleep after the Tooth Fairy leaves it.”
He ran upstairs, and came back down a minute later, excitedly showing us the money he found in the bag behind his bed.
A few days later, a package arrived from my mother. After hearing my story, she had handmade special Tooth Fairy pockets for each of the boys. No more searching for Ziplock bags under pillows in the dark. The Tooth Fairy pockets are made to hang from a doorknob or drawer handle for much easier access! It was a great reminder that I’m not alone in this. We have formed a new family – me, Will, the boys, my extended family and his – and we will be creating our own new traditions. I’m sure there will be many more in the first year of our marriage, and all the years ahead. Every time I get to be the Tooth Fairy again, I’ll remember the wonder, newness, fear, and love that were all wrapped up in this first time.