Friday, February 22, 2013

The Tooth Fairy has her work cut out for her

From today's Briefing:

I live in a land of extremes.

In one corner, there’s a boy who, upon the first sign of a loose tooth, forgoes all other activity until that tooth is extracted. When he’s accomplished his task, he places the baby tooth under his pillow without fanfare.

In the opposite corner, there’s a girl who, upon the first sign of a loose tooth, notifies everyone she knows about the impending loss, then drags out the process of losing that tooth for as long as possible.

She’s a multitasker, wiggling and jiggling it off and on for at least a month until the tooth is barely holding on and it finally falls out from exhaustion. Even then, her work is not done. She still must decide nighttime placement for the tooth, compose a note to the Tooth Fairy and gather gifts for the tiny winged creature.

After weeks of hyper-awareness of her third loose tooth — and steadfast refusal to allow anyone to pull it — Katie has a big gap in her smile where the top right front tooth used to reside.

Her tooth fell out just before dinner Monday night. Immediately after the dishes were cleared, Katie began assembling her Tooth Fairy offering.

First, she wrote a note, one in an ongoing series of written conversations with the taker of teeth. She asked the Tooth Fairy for her real name, for her picture and for a few “fun facts.” She signed it, “Love, Katie” and drew a picture of a tooth.

Next, she assembled gifts. She used markers to decorate an empty toilet paper roll to look like a little person. Inside the cardboard tube, she tucked a sheet of tiny heart and flower stickers, plus a temporary tattoo from our pediatric dentist. She also grabbed a package of dental floss from the bathroom.

This is where I come in. Because I have a vested interest in the placement of the Tooth Fairy items.

Cooper has been content for years to use a tooth pillow or small plastic bag for his lost teeth, and he places them just under his pillow, allowing for easy retrieval.

Katie is more complicated. When she lost her first tooth, she placed it, a note to the fairy and an assemblage of presents between two pillows, spaced about four inches apart. Removal of these treasures required three stealthy, hold-your-breath trips into her bedroom and quick-but-sure movements to sweep out the items from under the pillow and her sleepy head.

When she lost the second tooth, I casually mentioned that maybe she could leave the tooth beside her bed, in case the Tooth Fairy had a lot of pickups and deliveries that night.

Katie agreed, leaving tooth No. 2 in a cup of water by her bed. She told me that some of her friends do this so they can discover the color of the Tooth Fairy’s wings (based on the notion that there are multiple fairies flitting about).

The Tooth Fairy was especially thankful that night.

This Monday night, I advocated that she leave the tooth in water again.

“I already know she has yellow wings,” Katie replied as she tucked her tooth into the folded note and placed it under her pillow, next to the gifts.

An hour after she fell asleep, the items were safely removed from the bedroom. When Katie woke the next morning, the tooth, dental floss and cardboard tube were gone.

A note was folded with a dollar bill: “My friends call me TF. My identity is secret. The giant armadillo can have up to 100 teeth. An elephant’s tooth can weigh up to 6 pounds.”

TF would have left a longer list of fun facts, but there are 17 more baby teeth to go.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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