Dear Tooth Fairy:
You may wonder why I’m addressing this to you, when I know you don’t even exist. Remember how I tried to discredit you, Tooth Fairy? Second grade, wasn’t it? There was that unholy pact with Mom. It was that shared treachery that kept me from the truth, all those years.
Never should have trusted Mom. She recently admitted to a parenting technique she used when I was younger: when she wanted time to herself, she would run the vacuum cleaner to send me scrambling to my room.
An aside: I don’t know why this has been on my mind lately, but I keep returning to an incident from my tooth-losing years. I would have been seven, I think. The school assignment asked for us to draw a circle, then to draw a larger circle underneath that, then finally to draw a final larger circle underneath the first two.
So I did. My drawing looked like an archery target: three concentric rings.
But noooo, my perspective was all wrong. I was looking at the page from a bird’s eye view, not from a side view. The rings were supposed to be the frame of a snowperson, seen from a person standing in front of the construction, not above it.
Is it my fault the directions were ambiguous? No? Then why did the teacher frown at me and tell me to start over?
But I digress.
I used to look forward to losing my teeth, Tooth Fairy, truly I did. There was the exquisite satisfaction of working through the pain to pry loose the interloper, then the guaranteed payoff the following morning. Through twenty-some teeth I happily participated in this deception, never suspecting I was a pawn in a larger conspiracy.
Do the chickens on the farm know their purpose? Do they sense the ax looming in their futures? For years I was content to faithfully produce my teeth, assuming the good will of the collectors, but even the ignorant hen might get a glimpse of the truth.
Slowly the possibility of a greater consciousness dawned on me. Gnawed by doubts about a fundamental truth at such a young age, I naturally turned to my mother during my crisis of faith. She assured my that the Tooth Fairy was real, of course she was real.
My misgivings vanished. My mother’s word was the alpha and the omega. Besides, I had independent proof, the letters written to me by the Tooth Fairy.
I prayed to you, Tooth Fairy, do you remember? In my imagination you looked a lot like Disney’s Tinker Bell. Could have been her sister.
But oh, this happy hen could not rest in her coop! Even with the presents rendered after the successful delivery of a tooth, these bribes to win her complacency, the doubts began to return. I began to fear I would never find peace. For even as I aged, growing more cynical and circumspect by the day, my baby teeth were diminishing in number.
At the loss of the penultimate tooth, I daringly kept the news to myself, telling no one but Mom. This would weed out imposters, surely! And when the letter appeared under my pillow the next morning, how happy I was!
Santa Claus I had rejected gracefully, years prior, but you were unassailable, Tooth Fairy. I believed in you to my core. Beauty is tooth, tooth beauty.
Yet my internal cluckings returned, despite the incontestible proof of my experiment, despite my unwavering faith. One tiny little niggling detail squeaked for recognition. It scarcely deserved my attention—indeed, I dismissed it out of hand—but it slowly poisoned my thoughts till I could bear it no more.
I steeled my nerve and again confronted my mother, with the most daring accusation yet. “Mom,” I demanded, “are YOU the tooth fairy?”
“No,” she said. Alpha. Omega.
True enough: her handwriting looked nothing like yours, Tooth Fairy. You wrote in capital letters. Mom did not.
How is it that the opiate of the masses did not soothe the soul of one little hen? One more egg to lay, and she would be embarking on her well-earned retirement. It should have been a time of joy and anticipation. Instead it was a time of unprecedented suspicion, of doubt, of paranoia.
Weep you for the innocence! In one terrible act I ripped the lid from Pandora’s Box:
I did not tell Mom when I lost my last tooth.
All day I was nervous, stinking of my crime, knowing I was likely betraying my mother’s kindness forevermore. I clasped my hand over my mouth and spoke only when necessary, mumbling so as to keep my deed private.
When morning came—oh, Tooth Fairy, such relief! The tooth was gone, your words were on the page, your existence was demonstrably proven! Pity the poor hen her delusions!
Ah, Tooth Fairy, I suppose I should be glad. Your act of deceit permitted me the luxury of belief for years after the other children grew wise. And more: you gave me a glimpse of the goddess, a taste of a religion that embraced the matriarchy.
But know this, Tooth Fairy: more than twenty years have passed since your deceit, and I do not forget. I do not forget.