Friday, October 14, 2005

The Whole Tooth and Nothing But The Tooth

There is a large event that is evolving at home. We can see it coming. We anticipate it. We really can't do anything about it. Just wait until it arrives. No, no one's pregnant in this household! Well, there are three males and I that reside here, so I feel fairly confident in saying that. No, what is coming is more on the order of watching smoke billow out of Mt. Vesuvius, or the eye of Hurricane Wilma swirl closer to Florida, or Sherman's Army marching on Georgia. Except it is not a terrible event we're awaiting! It's just that we've been given fair notice. (And hey, there's no "Wilma" yet as far as I know. But that doesn't mean Fred won't be yelling for her any minute now.) It developed suddenly, like a tropical disturbance off the coast of Florida, and blew up into a Big Deal. Our 6-year-old is having Category Five Euphoria over it. He got out of school the other day, his skinny body vibrating with glee. "I have a loose TOOTH!" E-Chomping-Gads! Once they achieve school age, this is the first event that kids universally worship as a significant "growing up" milestone. For the first grade set, this is the equivalent of getting the keys to your own car! (Note to parents: Enjoy this moment. Tooth Fairy rates are a BARGAIN compared with car insurance.) In Florida the cut-off date for school enrollment is September, so with a late July birthday my son is one of the youngest in his class. I think he is the only one who has not lost a tooth. He turned six this past summer, commemorated with a baseball-themed party and a magician that captivated the 6-and-under crowd by making small objects vanish and reappear at will. Throughout the performance our 4-year-old was bellowing, "WHERE'S the CHICKEN?" (I guess he had promised a chicken. What ever happened to rabbits?) End of birthday party digression. Interestingly, cultures worldwide agree to payoffs for baby teeth. It's part of our collective consciousness. And in places where they don't use pillows, they have the kids throw the tooth on the roof! Which makes me wonder what rolls off those roofs on rainy days. Probably not cats and dogs. Maybe little white hard things, floss and dental appliances. I'm so glad our tradition is confined to the Great Indoors. So apparently to Tooth Fairy is not a Christian Entity like the Easter Bunny. Even atheists can summon the tooth fairy! The 6-year-old has been eating an inordinate amount of apples in an attempt to facilitate the Tooth Mining Process. Because if you don't already know it, Six ushers in the Golden Age for children. It's when they discover their mouth is filled with the equivalent of cold, hard (albeit moist) cash! In the form of baby teeth, lined up and glittering like enamel-covered Kiddie Mutual Funds ready to pay a mouthful of dividends. The discussion of "baby teeth" confused the 4-year-old, who said the 6-year-old couldn't possibly have those. He insisted they must be "Brother Teeth." Only the 4-year-old could have baby teeth, and then only when he wasn't in a Little Kid mood. Hubby and I have Dada and Mama Teeth, respectively. The 6-year-old is eagerly awaiting this first nibble at manhood. As a first grade status symbol, it is impossible to hide! Either you are missing a tooth or two, or you're not. There's no way to fake this important milestone short of donning Dracula Teeth. We have not told him any Suburban Legends about string and door handles. We don't want to cause nightmares. So I can see the Handwriting on the Dental Chart. I made a special trip to the bank for silver dollars. Back in ancient, pre-tooth whitening days, we kids were awarded a quarter for each newly excavated tooth. In that era a quarter was worth about $200. You could practically fill your gas tank on one! Quarters are passe these days, barely worth the metal they're stamped on. The first grade rumor mill has ground out the tale that "some" local Tooth Fairies (probably the ones with Designer Wands) are slipping a crisp five dollar bill under the kids' pillows. Let me repeat that so we can all shudder at the inflationary horror of it all. FIVE DOLLAR BILLS. Per tooth! Hubby and I are not part of the landed gentry, nor are we related to Bill Gates. We are not members of the lobbying class, and we don't drive fancy foreign cars. So needless to say "our" Tooth Fairy is not going to be doling out fives to anyone in our household. She has been instructed to limit herself to money that "clinks" when jangled together. Hence my trip to the bank. Which turned out to be a big hit amongst the tellers. They never get to do stuff this interesting! Once I made my request for "five of the shiniest dollar coins you've got" and explained why I needed them, they all joined in, searching through their drawers for the coins with the most sparkle. They were even giving me tips on how I could shine them up better. ("Ketchup" one confided to me. "That works even better than silver polish.") It is a tiny bit possible that the person behind me was getting annoyed at all the attention my frivolous request was getting, but who's to say my son's potential nest egg was any less important than her employee payroll deposit? (Kidding! They have a special commercial line for those customers!) So the coins are tucked away in the Fairy Vault while we await the magical event that will socially, dentally, and financially change my son's life. And for the record, the 4-year-old says he's planning to lose a few teeth any moment now, also. As soon as he decides which ones he can spare.

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