Within the space of a week, we have gone from talking about the facts of life to barely fulfilling our tooth fairy obligations while on vacation.
We are on our much anticipated annual trip with my college roommates and their husbands and kids. We’ve been taking the beach trip since our oldest children were infants, and each year we rotate which families share a house together.
This year we are sharing a house with the Voice of Reason and her family. It has three stories connected by steep staircases. The parents’ and girls’ bedrooms are on the first floor, the living area is on the second floor, and all the boys are on the top floor.
We had barely arrived at the beach when Drew came to me announcing that he had lost a tooth. The timing was bad for the Tooth Fairy.
We see several of the families only once a year, during beach week. As a result, the first day involves much hugging and catching up. By the time the burger and dog cookout had concluded, the Tooth Fairy was tipsy and exhausted. But the evening wasn’t over yet. After dinner, we put the kids to sleep and then the grownups played Catchphrase and continued to drink. During the third round, the Voice nudged me.
“Don’t forget about Drew’s tooth,” she whispered. “All the kids know he lost it, and at our house, the tooth fairy comes even when you are on vacation.”
I was insulted. “I’m not going to forget,” I said indignantly. “Besides, Bill handles it for us. He always remembers. And the tooth fairy finds our children on vacation, too.”
“Okay,” the Voice said. “I’m willing to go do it now if you think he might forget.”
“Thanks for the offer,” I said, “but Bill can do it.”
The game continued, with the ladies barely scraping out a victory after successfully guessing “cornbelt,” “batter up,” “dead duck” and “Magic Johnson.”
When we could barely stand up, everyone went to sleep. Even the Tooth Fairy tumbled into bed and slept, oblivious to the special tooth waiting to be retrieved two steep flights above.
The next morning Bill and I woke and encountered a disconsolate Drew.
He was already in his swimsuit, all pale, gangly arms and legs and big blue teary eyes. Porter and Finn followed him.
“Mom, the tooth fairy didn’t come last night,” he said sadly. “I put the tooth under my pillow and it was still there this morning.”
“It’s true, Mom,” Finn said. “We thought maybe she had left the tooth and some money like she does sometimes, but we’ve looked everywhere and there’s no money. I don’t think she could find Drew. What are we going to do?” he asked desperately.
“Honey, I’m so sorry,” I said, kneeling down to Drew’s level and looking him in the eyes as I struggled to remember the events of the previous night. “I bet she went to our house at home and couldn’t find you. I’m sure she’s flying around looking for you now.”
“Yeah, she probably thought we hadn’t gone to the beach yet,” he agreed. “What should I do now?” Drew asked.
“I think we should make that tooth really easy to find,” I said. “I have some yellow legal paper we can wrap it in and we can label it “Drew’s Tooth” and that will help the tooth fairy find it.”
So we did. At the same time, I wrote a discreet note and taped it to the mirror over my dresser. It read “TF.”
It didn’t take long for the news that the tooth fairy had failed to visit Drew to be spread among all ten children in our party, as well as the eleven across the street who all live in the Tiny Kingdom, too. To put it mildly, the nonvisit was the major news event among the small fry.
The Voice and I were in charge of dinner for all ten adults that day, so in between beach activities we marinated the fixings for Lemony Chicken Kabobs and I made a carrot cake for Bill’s birthday.
It was a little chilly in the kitchen. The Voice muttered, “I told you I was willing to perform tooth fairy duties. My children are very suspicious about her failure to arrive last night. I hope it doesn’t happen again.”
“It won’t happen again,” I assured her, although deep down I was far from sure of this. Cocktail hour didn’t start until five, but the mens’ beer hour had started several hours earlier. I was secretly hoping she’d volunteer to take care of the tooth again, but she didn’t and I was too proud to ask.
By the time we had finished dinner and were preparing to tuck the kids in bed, it was late. My back hurt from lugging beach equipment to and fro, and my mind was a whirling dervish after the conclusion of another highly competitive game of Catchphrase. It was sheer luck that I saw the note on the mirror as I put on my pajamas.
I went up to the kitchen to find Bill.
“Honey, we’ve got to deal with the tooth,” I whispered to Bill as he prepared to head up the stairs to tuck in the boys.
“Didn’t we do that yesterday?” he asked.
“We were supposed to, but the tooth fairy got drunk and tired and forgot. She has to do her job tonight or she’s going to get a bad reputation. It’s not just our kids paying attention. The Voice’s kids know Drew lost a tooth and that the tooth fairy didn’t come. This is serious,” I said.
“Well, after that carrot cake, I can’t walk up and down these stairs more than once. I’m going to get a dollar and I’ll deal with the tooth when I kiss Drew goodnight,” Bill said.
“That sounds extremely dangerous to me,” I cautioned. “You’re going into a room with four energetic, fully awake believers. If you screw this up, all the kids on the trip are going to know within moments that you are the tooth fairy.”
“I’ll be cool,” Bill promised, and he lumbered downstairs to our bedroom to retrieve a dollar and then up all the stairs to the boys’ room to take care of business.
A few moments later he returned to our bedroom and pumped his fists in the air.
“I was smooth, I was sneaky, I was the tooth fairy of the century!” he proclaimed.
“Awesome! What did you do?” I asked, as I started brushing my teeth.
“I put Drew in his bed, and when I hugged him, I slid my hand under the pillow and left the dollar and scooped up the tooth in one movement!” Bill said. “It was righteous!”
We high fived each other and finished brushing our teeth, congratulating ourselves on our spectacular parenting skills.
About thirty seconds later, we heard the sound of many feet descending many flights of stairs. In moments, we were faced with three sweaty, excited Glamore boys. Fortunately, the Voice’s son was not with them.
Bill and I exchanged glances. My stomach turned over and I started to feel sick. We were busted.
“What’s up?” Bill asked in an unnaturally high voice.
“Dad, you’re never going to believe what happened,” Drew said.
“Try us,” I said drily, shooting Bill an evil look. I was going to let him handle the situation, since he had blown it by trying to shortcut proper tooth fairy procedure.
“The tooth fairy–” Porter started.
“Be quiet, Porter,” Finn said rudely. “This is Drew’s story and he gets to tell it.”
We all turned to Drew, who was unaccustomed to being the center of attention.
“Remember the tooth fairy didn’t come last night?” Drew asked in a small voice.
“We remember,” I said. “I am sure she will find you tonight.”
“She did!” Drew yelled. “I had just checked to make sure my tooth was under my pillow and then I hugged Daddy goodnight and then I looked under my pillow and there was a dollar!”
“Did you see the tooth fairy?” I asked suspiciously.
“No,” Drew said.
“But I saw a flash of light!” Porter shouted.
“There was wind!” Finn proclaimed.
“I think it got a little cold when she was there,” Drew ventured.
“So you’re telling us that the tooth fairy came in your room just moments after you put your tooth back under your pillow, took your tooth, left you a dollar, and none of you saw her?” Bill asked.
Bill looked at me triumphantly.
“That is one sneaky tooth fairy,” he said. “Everyone head back up to bed.”
“Just a minute, Dad,” Finn said. “We’ve got to let everyone know what happened. They’re all afraid the tooth fairy has just forgotten Drew or can’t find the beach. Cole has a tooth barely hanging on by a thread, and he’s not letting anyone touch it til he finds out whether the tooth fairy comes for Drew.”
“It’s pretty late,” I said. “Why don’t I call Cole’s mom and let her know the tooth fairy can find the beach?”
“That’s a great idea,” Finn said.
“Okay, that’s enough,” Bill said. “Everyone go to bed.”
As the sound of feet receded into the distance, Bill said, “I told you I was a bitchin’ tooth fairy.”
“You’re a lucky fairy,” I retorted, dialing Cole’s mom.
I told her we had managed to follow through on our tooth fairy duties. There was an audible sigh of relief on the other end of the line.
“It’s getting pretty gross over here,” Cole’s mom said. “That tooth should have come out hours ago but Cole is deathly afraid the tooth fairy won’t find him here, after what happened to Drew. I was just about to come over there and make sure she’d done her thing so we could let him know it’s okay to pull the tooth.”
I ignored the undertone of accusation in her voice and said brightly, “Go pull that tooth! Y’all have a good night and we’ll see you at the beach!”
I hung up.
And then the Tooth Fairy went to sleep, free of all obligations.