This is how you've gotta position the tooth envelope.
This is how you’ve gotta position the tooth envelope.

Tuesday night, right before bed, Bini yanked out his fourth baby tooth. It had been really loose for a week, so it’s not like we didn’t know it was coming. Bini had been traveling to camp with a Ziploc bag, in case it came out during archery or fort-building. But still, Steve and I were caught unprepared. It was 11 at night and we were getting ready for bed when we realized that our wallets contained only twenties, and a few nickels and pennies.

“We’ll have to steal from his piggy bank and pay him back,” I told Steve, who was already snug in bed with his Kindle.

“You gotta do what you gotta do,” he said.

The first time Bini lost a tooth, it was a similar deal. Steve was playing basketball and I was home alone with Bini. I got a little lightheaded when it came out, all pointy at the root and blood pouring down his lip, but from deep in the recesses of my brain came my mother’s voice: Rinse with warm saltwater. The bleeding stopped and we wrote a note to the Tooth Fairy. Bini stuffed the envelope holding the pointy tooth and note under his pillow.

“I think I’m going to try and stay up to see her,” yawned Bini. Tooth-losing was tiring business.

“She won’t come then,” I replied. “She’s like Santa. If she knows you’re awake, she won’t come.”

“Mom, sometimes I think you’re making this stuff up,” Bini grumbled, and then promptly fell asleep.

My wallet was light that night — just one $5 bill. I decided that would have to do, and wrote a longish note in Tooth-Fairy hand explaining that the first tooth was special, blah blah. I snuck into Bini’s room that night and tried to extricate the envelope from under his pillow. I had my hand under his pillow and was giving the envelope a good tug when Bini’s eyes flew open and he stared at me. I hit the floor like a ninja, barely breathing, and waited. Five minutes ticked by. I’ll be damned if I screw up the Tooth Fairy, I thought. What kind of mom screws up the Tooth Fairy on the first try?

After ten minutes, I stood up slowly and crept over to the bedroom door. While I’d been hiding, I’d devised a plan. It was clearly going to be a grab-and-run operation, and I needed a clear escape path. 

While I was trying to get the envelope out from beneath Bini’s pillow, I heard a loud meow. Jinx, one of our cats, had snuck into the room and was standing in the doorway, watching. And meowing. Her meow could wake the dead and, sure enough, it woke Bini. He sat straight up. “Mom? What are you doing?”

“Just checking to see if the Tooth Fairy has come, buddy.” I patted his pillow. “Not yet, looks like.”

Bini said something nonsensical and flopped back down. It took me two more tries before I got the damned tooth.

Lesson learned: Make sure the envelope is in an easy-to-grab position. Tuesday night, I was able to swipe it and raid the piggy bank without waking the kid.

This Tooth Fairy thing does make me wonder: How long do kids believe in this stuff? Bini’s only 6, but his Santa questions have gotten progressively more probing. I feel like a jerk making up fantastical reasons why and how he can distribute presents to a billion kids in one night. And the Easter Bunny is just weird. Bini doesn’t like that a giant rabbit sneaks into our house and hides stuff every year. I can’t say that I blame him.

I found out in one fell swoop that all of it was a lie. I think I was about 9 or 10, and my mom asked me to go grab something from her scarf drawer. Her scarf drawer, as it turned out, was where she kept all of the teeth we kids had lost over the years. I walked into the bathroom, where she was doing her hair, carrying a little white envelope with “Tooth Fairy” written on it. I recall that she turned quite green.

You’re the Tooth Fairy?” I accused.

No reply from my mom.

“Are you the Easter Bunny, too?” I asked, starting to get hysterical.

Nothing from my stricken mom.

“SANTA??” I screamed. When my mom looked at the floor, I ran from the room, slamming doors and yelling, Harriet-the-Spy style.  I felt like I’d been lied to, and I was pissed. I think kids have one of two reactions to the big reveal: They’re either incensed, or they pretend not to know. If they do know, maybe the presents will stop coming, my brother explained. (They didn’t.)

Until Bini figures it all out, I’m keeping the baby teeth in my underwear drawer — a place I know he will never, ever to. I feel like I’m supposed to hang onto them, but to be honest, they kind of creep me out.


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