Saying Good-bye to the Tooth Fairy

100_3914When my daughter cut her first tooth — well teeth, really, because those two bottom teeth appeared in tandem — I cried for the end of the toothless, gummy smile. For me, this was the first tangible evidence of change. It meant the advent of solid food and independent consumption of nourishment; the end of breast feeding (although I “milked” this for awhile longer). The beginning of life apart.

Eventually, though, I grew accustomed to new teeth appearing. I discovered I was equally enchanted by smiles filled with little, pearly teeth.

But then…

The First Tooth

no-tooth Then came the loss of her first tooth; I cried for its passing. Another milestone. Another change. My tears were short-lived, however, because the loss of that first tooth was a literal loss. Running across a grassy yard, my daughter tripped. Although she was unhurt, the tooth — which had remained attached by one thin strand of flesh despite gentle efforts to dislodge it — finally sprang free. Into unmowed grass and oblivion it went, despite our frantic searching.Disaster loomed. Without a tooth, what evidence could my daughter present to the Tooth Fairy that she qualified for a visit? What would she put under her pillow? Tears were shed — hers, this time — as I feverishly looked for a way out of the dilemma. Eventually, we composed a little explanatory note to the Tooth Fairy, complete with a drawing of the tooth, and tucked it under her pillow.

The Coming of Dentyna

another-note Obviously, a response to the little note was required. It would not be enough to leave a coin and move on; a special circumstance deserved acknowledgement. So when Rachel awoke the next morning, she discovered a tiny note (in a tiny envelope) congratulating her on the loss of her first tooth and thanking her for the note and the picture. Naturally, when the next tooth fell out, Rachel wondered whether Dentyna would write again. Any parent knows the answer to that question. Dentyna would indeed write again.

Dentyna’s World

some-dentyna-notes In each letter thereafter, Dentyna would share a little bit about her world. There was the matter of what the Tooth Fairies (yes, Dentyna was one of many) did with all those baby teeth. Many became the basic building materials for fairy houses. The pearliest teeth were used to make the keys of tiny fairy pianos. Baby-tooth pianos were prized for their pure tone as well as for their beauty. Even little teeth with cavities (not that we had any!) had a purpose. Since they were already hollowed out, they made great little planters.
On one visit, Dentyna was in such a hurry that she left behind the little shoes and hat she’d removed while writing her letter. The shoes were made from the tenderest, freshest, and most fragrant white rose petals. Her hat was woven from a special yarn blended from corn and spider silks. Another time, she brought a tiny statue carved from the tusk of a baby elephant, explaining that the elephant had chipped its tusk on a piece of rock it mistook for breakfast cereal.

The Question

tiny-treasuresTime passed. My daughter was growing up and she only had a few baby teeth left.

Shortly before her 8th birthday the question came. As I tucked her in for the night, I could see something was on her mind. Pensively, she lay there while I smoothed blankets and arranged her favorite stuffed animals.

Finally, haltingly and with reluctance, she asked, “Mommy, are you Dentyna?” In her expression was hope that I would deny it and apprehension that I could not, but in her eyes was knowledge. She didn’t want it to be true but had passed the point of denial. She’d been compelled to ask the question — had steeled herself to receive the answer. I owed her honesty.

I admit I was tempted to keep the fantasy going a little longer. It was so precious, so fragile — a soap bubble. But only one answer was possible. Anything else would have been a betrayal and an even deeper loss.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m Dentyna.”

We looked at each other for a long moment. I knew the tears I saw on her cheeks were mirrored on mine. I crept into bed with her and held her close.

That night, we did all the night rituals — even the ones she had mostly outgrown. We did the “loves” (Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, your grandparents love you…) and I sang her the lullaby song I’d made up for her. I even recited Goodnight Moon (is there a mother who hasn’t memorized that book?).

That night, we said good-bye to Dentyna and put away another piece of her childhood.

Dentyna Returns

last-letterTwo months later, her next-to-last baby tooth fell out. Although she didn’t put it under her pillow, in the morning there was a special letter and tiny present from me-Dentyna.
Her final baby tooth never did fall out. The dentist said it probably wouldn’t, because there was no adult tooth to dislodge it. I like to think that’s the Dentyna tooth — the one that represents the link between childhood dreams and adult realities.

Dentyna returned, one last time, to mark my daughter’s official transition into adulthood. She left behind a tiny letter of wishes and farewell. As Rachel touched the minute envelope with the tip of one finger, memories swirled around us, delicate and sparkling as fairy dust. I looked at my daughter, now a poised and confident young woman. For an instant, through the blur of tears, I glimpsed a gummy baby smile.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Good-bye to the Tooth Fairy | Mood Swings & Other Furniture

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