You Can’t Handle the Tooth.

Once upon a time, it was a lot easier to lie to your children. Santa. The Easter Bunny. The cat’s on the roof. This isn’t fish, it’s white steak (good one, Mom!).

The tooth fairy.

Cue the blues riff, if you must, but Back In My Day….

You lost a tooth.
You put it under your pillow.
You woke up, and there was a buck under your pillow.

Simple, but magical. The magic of it was….well, that you didn’t feel a thing as the tooth was replaced with the dollar. All of which lent some credibility to the idea that a winged, agile and industrious nymph carried out this deed. You didn’t wait up to try to catch her in the act. You didn’t expect other evidence of her visit. That you even knew her gender had less to do with the tooth fairy having a real persona than your innate sense that only a woman would agree to faithfully execute this thankless but loving task.

And so it was that I had never devoted much concern to how I would carry out this sacred untruth. While we carry very little cash in our wallets, I figured even we could scrape up a buck – ok, maybe two (for a reasonable cost of living adjustment since 1978), even if it had to be in change.

But the change I hadn’t counted on was that the whole tooth fairy business, unbeknownst to me, had undergone rampant and unchecked escalation. Turns out I was still playing Merlin, while the rest of the world’s tooth ferreting parents had up’ed the game to Wii Box, or whatever that thing is where people wave wands at their TV and call it exercise.

Maybe a year or more ago, my friend Julianna’s twins started losing teeth. I gave each a congratulatory kiss. Little did I know that these gummy trailblazers were whispering a whole new legend into Devan’s ear. For they each received a personalized letter – no, a magical fairy certificate! – from their own, personal tooth fairies. Each fairy shared some fun facts about herself, which revealed how very perfectly matched she was to her slumbering tooth donor.

To borrow a new favorite phrase (thank you, Jen Hatmaker): What fresh hell is this?

Fast forward to this afternoon, exactly four minutes after school let out, when I answered my office phone to Devan’s breathless announcement that she had lost her tooth at school. This landed her not only a coveted trip to the school nurse, whom I am convinced she contrives reasons to visit daily, but also a special tooth case attached to a necklace made of red string. As if this weren’t enough ecstasy to fill a Monday in mid-January, her great friend and classmate Izzy ALSO LOST HER TOOTH – AT SCHOOL – ALSO, MOMMY, LIKE I DID.

I squealed with delight, risking the irritation of my office neighbors, though I assume they have long since gotten used to me giving my daily splay of expletives a moment’s rest to talk to my children.

And then it dawned on me: it would be a Fairy night.

When I got home, Devan had a few questions, a few plans, a few overblown expectations.

Mommy, will the tooth fairy leave me a note this time?

Well, Devan, I’m not sure. She has a lot of kids’ teeth to collect. I mean, Monday is the most popular day to lose a tooth, so you have to consider her workload, plus travel time, and…

Mommy, I am going to write my tooth fairy a secret note, telling her what I want as my gift. And you can’t see it, ok, promise? It’s a secret.

Woah, woah, woah, lady. The tooth fairy doesn’t work like Santa, where you get to request a particular gift. There’s a reason you write to Santa weeks in advance, so he can make production plans and address inventory constraints. The tooth fairy doesn’t have reindeer, and she basically tucks a wad of cash in one pocket and keeps the other empty to fill it with teeth. So, you get what I’m saying?

OK, Mommy, remember, you CAN’T look at this, but how do you spell “Rancher?”

Devan, you get what you get and…



When did all my fellow parents screw me over? This is like the moment I realized that DC had free pre-K. . . IF you’d applied by lottery six months prior. Or that people had done their estate planning, price compared when buying insurance, and made kale smoothies.

Before ducking out to Walgreen’s to procure a bullshit tooth fairy gift, I did a quick email survey among the most likely suspects who had set this dastardly drivel in motion – which is to say, my dear friends and mothers to Devan’s besties. I even used the red exclamation point, “High Importance” tag, to let these bitches know I needed some answers, ASAP.

My friend Debbie confessed that she “might” be to blame for part of the madness.

“Might” my ass.

The damning facts are these: her older daughter’s fairy is Felicity, who left a note asking her not to set little “fairy traps” for her in the future, as it might hurt her wings. And her younger daughter is visited by Fiona, who it just so happens is Felicity’s little sister. Fiona has a pet pegasus, and her favorite food is marshmallow fluff.

What the fluff.

Not to be outdone, Maribeth has confessed that Fluttershine leaves a personalized note for her daughter, which she prepares as her husband scours the CVS for fun fairy fare.

Julianna confirmed that Sunshine and Savannah respond to the adorable questions that her twins pose to them on each visit. She even encouraged me to check out a web site where the imagined fairies print pictures of themselves, their mushroom shaped house, and their puppy dog.

Keeping in mind that children lose approximately 20 baby teeth, and that the day on which each will be lost is an unknowable, I remain stunned by the betrayal that my otherwise sensible friends have wrought upon me.

Moreover, what does a fairy need with a dog? Seriously, how realistic is it to expect a filmy naif with wings to secure rabies shots and scoop dog shit?

Alas, with Devan now tucked into her top bunk, I faced a simple choice that boiled down to the classic beating or joining. So while my friends deserve and may still get a beating for unleashing this nonsense, I have decided to join. I raise my bicuspid-white flag.

But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to have some fun with it.

Devan, meet your tooth fairy.

Dear Devan,

You seem like a nice enough kid, so while I usually like to maintain some level of privacy about my personal life, I will make an exception in this case.

My name is Calliope. I’m a pretty good looking fairy, at least when I take the time to curl my hair and iron my dress before work. But the funny thing is, I didn’t start out a fairy at all.

I grew up in a railcar on the CrankTown Train Line. My mother sewed uniforms for the train conductors and engineers. Since she could fly, and could work a needle like magic, she could sew 10 buttons on a vest in 3 minutes flat. Think of that scene from Cinderella where the birds and mice fix up her dress, and you get the picture. My father worked the ticket counter and cleaned the station. Life wasn’t easy. Railroad life looks all glamorous on those Thomas shows your brother likes, but believe me, it ain’t no Island of Sodor. And I didn’t go to school and learn to read like you are, so I didn’t have very good prospects.

Plus, my whole life people told me I was a moth.

I left it all behind and struck out on my own at 18. Listen to me, kid, as angry as you may get at your parents from time to time, don’t ever do what I did. I’ve gotten a good look at your room, your dollies, your closet full of great clothes. Your freezer is always filled with Go-Gurt tubes. You have a good gig here.

I never meant to become a pickpocket. But after enough nights dreaming of marshmallow fluff, or a mushroom house to call my own, I flitted into the pocket of a rich Wall Street-looking type on the subway and embarked on a winged crime spree that I now deeply and utterly regret.

When I finally got caught by some eagle-eyed snot nosed toddler on the Chicago El, I had hit rock bottom. But luckily, I had a really good public defender. Lawyers are really, really important and special, and even though they have to work late sometimes and travel too much, they help all kinds of creatures who are in trouble. Even fairies. Remember that.

Since they don’t keep criminal justice records for moths, the judge didn’t know what to do with me. I had no priors. He gave me a year of probation and 100 hours of mandatory community service.

Anyway, as I tried to figure out what a flying, nimble handed, stealthy sprite could do to make an honest wage, my probation officer handed me a pamphlet and application to Molars to Morals: A Tooth Fairy Institute for the Wayward but Winged.

And that’s how I turned it all around. They got me a place to stay with other fairies in training, who couldn’t believe my luck at having such a killer fairy name.

When I first agreed to go, I figured, “hey, it’s three hot’s and a cot.” Instead I found my calling.

My mother turned up at my graduation. I think my lawyer had tracked her down. And get this: she told me the secret she’d kept from me my whole life: I was born a fairy, a direct descendant of Tinkerbell. Great Aunt Tink may have risen to fame, but the studio treated her brutally, and between the quaaludes, relentless dieting, and long hours, she really lost her way. Her daughters swore off fairy work then and there.

But when they put my first Tooth Fairy Gown on me that day, I knew I had reclaimed my birthright.

So take it from me, Devan Christine: you never know where life is going to take you. Things can always turn around. But never, ever, ever, do drugs.

To answer your other questions, I don’t have any pets. This job commands a lot of my time, and like your mom, I’m allergic to most animals.

And I’m sorry to say that I didn’t haul along a bag of Jolly Ranchers tonight (nice job on the spelling, though). I have limited space in my pockets, but I promise I will always find a way to at least get a buck under your pillow.

A few more thoughts, til we meet again (by the way, my money is on #24, your lateral incisor…)

Keep up the guitar practice. We love hearing you when we’re all at dinner before heading out on the Western Hemisphere night shift.

Tell Leah to tell Fluttershine I said, “hey.” She and I went through some times together.

And try to give your poor Dad a break. Nobody’s perfect, and he really is trying.

Keep it real, and hang loose (sorry, bad tooth pun!),

Yours truly,
Calliope Von Shankle

3 thoughts on “You Can’t Handle the Tooth.

  1. Mlibrarian

    A thousand years ago I trail blazed this tooth fairy business. You can blame me. I asked my mom if I could leave a questionnaire for my tooth fairy – ’cause when in doubt, research. I asked for name, gender, and what happened to all the teeth.

    Answers: Twinkle, female, dentures and ground down for piano keys.

    This was the one and only instance of our correspondence. I did not, however, expect our new relationship to up my take from the standard 25¢.

    Cut to present day(ish): My niece loses a tooth during a sleepover at my parents. Niece also has a special Tooth Fairy who delivers unicorns and personal notes in beautiful calligraphy. Mom panics and writes on a piece of paper:

    Hello, my name is Twinkle. It has been so long since anyone lost a tooth in this house that they pulled me out of retirement. I hope this dollar covers the cost of inflation. Happy New Tooth and Keep Brushing!

  2. Betty

    This is priceless. I love Calliope’s hard luck story, and glad you kept with the buck (or two) limit. I would love to know what Devan told her friends about Calliope. At least by inventing a personna for her (own, personal?) tooth fairy, you’ve lessened the chances of her lying to her classmates in a one-ups-manship game of who’s got the coolest tooth fairy.
    But seriously, your fellow moms really did mess this up.

    (By the way, I know you’re not allergic to “most” animals!)

    More posts, please!

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