Sunday, July 25, 2010

When Does Magic Die?

"Oh, no... my tooth is still here!"

My heart fell. My littlest pulled her tooth out Saturday morning, while I was still lying in bed (recovering from Friday night), and here it was, time to tuck her in on Sunday night... and the Tooth Fairy had failed her.

She has been on something of a tooth-pulling spree lately. This is her third lost tooth in two weeks! I told her the Tooth Fairy probably hadn't expected her to lose another so quickly, and she seemed to accept that. "I'll just leave it for tonight," she said. "But I think I figured out who really brings the money."

My lovely bride and I are not religious people, and we try to be practical about child rearing; we don't make up a lot of pretty lies about life. My children know - as much as the innocent can know - what death is, and in general terms they know how babies are made. They know to call a vagina a "vagina" and a penis a "penis" - not a "boom boom" or a "wee-wee" or a "private area," so in an emergency the doctor doesn't have to guess where the injury is. They know that there are Bad People out in the world, and that sometimes the Good People aren't at their best either.

But we've tried to preserve some of the magic in our practical lives through some of the more obvious, persistent myths; the Tooth Fairy, Santa on Christmas Eve, and the Easter Bunny. There is a sweetness in the joy they feel when they get that tangible proof that something Other loves them, and even the bittersweet moment when they realize that it's a lie can be a practical learning moment, too. But that is a moment worth delaying.

I asked her who really brings the money with a quizzical expression, hoping I looked a bit like David Tennant's Dr. Who, and failing miserably, I'm sure.

"Your mom and dad," she said.

"You mean, MY mom and dad?" I asked, hamming it up, hoping to talk my way out of this somehow. "But they're all the way out in Phoenix!"

"No," she explained in her exasperated way. "The mom and dad of the kid who lost the tooth." She's probably not going to be a good second grade teacher with her short temper and her eye-rolling. "That means YOU, Dad."

"Well, I don't know anything about THAT," I said, unconvincingly. "You just put that tooth under your pillow, and see what happens!" I asked to see it, and she proudly raised the pillow so I could. Hard to miss, tiny as it was; it was long, sharp, and still a little bloody, not unlike life itself.

I tucked her in, and kissed her, and went about my business. I had to wait for her to fall asleep, after all. I tucked in the boys - the elder who had seen through our Tooth Fairy ruse years ago, and the younger who knew damn well who was bringing the loot, and was still mad at us for being so stingy, but pretended to believe so the funds would keep flowing.

The teenager and I went in and fired up the Wii so we could enjoy the adventures of the aforementioned Doctor, and I almost forgot about the tooth again. I only thought of it because of magic.

The particular episode we watched involved the Doctor and his companion visiting William Shakespeare in 1599, where they saved the universe by supplying the Bard of Avon with the word "Expelliarmus" at an opportune moment. The Harry Potter reference had us in stitches.

As I kissed the teen goodnight, she said something about how sad she had been on her 11th birthday, NOT finding out that she was a witch, and going to Hogwarts. She's still a dreamer, though, and I am willing to bet she is watching out for a blue Police box to appear on a street corner to whisk her away on an adventure... someday. Those dreams, no matter how silly or obviously false, those are part of us. They keep us going, for some reason.

I have my own dreams, my own private hopes, and if I told you what some of them were, you would think me a fool. You wouldn't believe that I could hold onto some of the things I dream about, as old as I am and as much as I have seen of the world. But I assure you, I do; and even though there is no reason to expect that they will, some of my dreams keep coming true.

I crept by one of my most precious dreams as she slumbered on my bed (waiting for her 0200 alarm). I fetched one of the few remaining gold dollars I have hidden in my sock drawer for emergencies like this one - this one had Andrew Jackson's face on it. I crept up the stairs, in the dark, avoiding the creakier spots in the floor. And even though it's obviously false, and rather silly, I was the Tooth Fairy, and Old Hickory was the golden treasure.

When does the magic die? Hopefully not tonight.

Hopefully, never.

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