Capturing life in words…
“Thank God! She got us here one more time,” piped Kate, patting the dusty, cracked dashboard and winking at her four-year old son, Max, who was intently wiggling his tooth. Kate frowned. Every child deserves to have the Tooth Fairy come with their first lost tooth.
Kate pulled her purse out. She had made it from an old pair of jeans by cutting straight across both legs,a few inches below the back pockets and sewing a straight line across. The “Kate Designer Purse” was completed with a strap cut from the left leg of her old jeans. Max was impressed, and since it’s completion, stored his recently acquired, prized toy car in the former jean back pocket, now purse pocket.
She rummaged through it one more time. No spare change or folded dollar bills magically appeared. She still only had $17 and a red HotWheel to get them through the next three days. The HotWheel didn’t need gas, but the 1998 Chevy she was sitting in was almost on fumes.
“Look Mummy,” proudly smiling as he pushed the tooth with his tongue, nearly at a 90 degree angle. No matter how many times Kate encouraged Max not to mess with it, under the ruse of not hurting himself, he was a boy. An excited little boy. Kate’s cautions were indeed to prevent harm– the emotional let down of no Tooth Fairy Visit. Her hopes were thin now to keep it in his tiny mouth 72 more hours– to get to pay day. She was no dentist, but the tooth would be out within hours, if not minutes. Max was thrilled ever since he felt the wiggle eating apple slices.
Tooth Fairy emergency was on her mind more than the disconnect electric bill sitting at home. It was not due for another 10 days. Mothers like her had to live in 24 hour increments. Mothers like her lived in survival mode. Her best friend Pammy came to mind, “Mothers like you show love because they can’t buy love.” She hoped the Tooth Fairy knew this and came through for Max.
“Come on King Max,” she said, plopping the crown on his honey colored waves. He had been toting it around since being duly crowned by Kate two weeks ago at a fast food restaurant. One of Kate’s regulars gave her a free kid’s meal coupon. They made an event of the evening. She dubbed him King Maximus as he tasted his first King burger and got the HotWheel in the kid’s meal. He had never had a kid’s meal and was utterly speechless over getting both a crown AND a car. She smiled, turning the memory over her mind, as he looked up at her. The slightly large crown pushing his bangs just past his brows, enhancing the innocence of being a child.
“Mummy, Wemember you said only the special and berry good boys get RED cars,” which came out “Wed cars”. He grabbed the HotWheel out of her purse-jean pocket with his free hand. He drove the car up her hand holding his as they started towards the door. His tongue still madly moving his front tooth. Little boys could think, drive cars and wiggle a tooth, and skip around puddles.
“Yep, that’s right, Sir Maximus!” she said with exaggerated formality, determined to make the moment special and happy, whenever the tooth came out, so he’d still feel like a special and berry good little boy.
She wished she had the coupon to leave under his pillow today. She was picturing him waking in the morning and looking under his pillow to find … only a colorful picture of Kate’s best sketch of a Tooth Fairy. That was her back up plan. Which paled to the expectations of getting a shiny quarter. She remembered being a child and how the adrenaline would surge as her sleepy thoughts came together — the Tooth Fairy should have come! Lifting the pillow to find a quarter which always seemed to glint from morning sunlight was a memory she wanted for Max. He lost his father, he shouldn’t lose the grace of the Tooth Fairy too.
His friends at the babysitter had already told Max to expect a shiny coin. Kate scanned the parking lot as they skirmished around the puddles on the way into FoodMart. Not even a penny to be found. She began going over her grocery list in her head. To feed Max, Kate and the Chevy– using her coupons, Kate needed nineteen dollars, at minimum. Even a dime from the Tooth Fairy would be a miracle.
Suddenly Maxed shrieked! “AAAhhhh! Mommmmmeeeee!!”And stopped. His head bent over, as if trying to touch his chin to chest. Kate dropped quickly to her knees, one arm encircling him, the other looking for scrapes, blood, a forbidden injury to the HotWheel. Her view of Max obscured by her sweaty should-have-been-cut-months-ago hair sticking to her cheek. She pulled the resistant locks away, but the King Burger crown had slid down hiding his whole face, his silky hair standing at odd angles. A vision of a wasp trapped under the crown, or some other freak accident flashed through her mind. Suddenly there was a giggle, muffled through the cheap cardboard crown so treasured by him.
“Mummy, my cwayon is in my eyes,”her anxiety level dropped from 9 to 7. Only a visual of his face would drop her heart-rate to normal.
“Mummy, my tooth fell out,” he said as if winning the lottery “It fell out of my mouth … hurry and look!” He impatiently brushed her hands away, frenziedly pulling the “cwayon” off his head while still clutching his red car. And immediately dropped to his knees, searching for the prized tooth.
“Max, are you okay? Does your mouth hurt… let Mommy see,”. At the back of her mind, it registered she wanted it to be special, not a an outburst on the FoodMart sidewalk. Oh well, so it wasn’t a Hallmark moment. This was the child’s first lost tooth. A memory in the making.
Kate, joined Max in a hunched over, shuffle. And joined his chant of “I spy with my eye, I spy with my eye.”
Max was so into the search he forgot his coveted crown, Kate scooped it up just as Max found his tooth under the magazine rack. Kate noted ironically, the auto trader magazine on the rack displayed a 1968 Camero on the cover– much like Max’s HotWheel.
Max grabbed his tooth which was resting near a crumpled receipt and colored paper.
“Mumma, there’s a coupon next to it! See the Toof Fairy already is giving me good luck.”
He grabbed the crumpled receipt, coupon and tooth.
Kate took in how he reached so tenderly, as if plucking a four-leaf clover, when he retrieving the First Lost Tooth… and a coupon of good luck. His tongue nervously probed the gap his recent event created in his grin, as he stood, struggling to hold the coupon, car and tooth.
Kate watched his face looking at the incisor with reverence. Even though she was standing on a public sidewalk at a local Foodmart, it felt like a Hallmark moment. A wave of thankfulness in the small things washed through her, like a gentle stream bathes a river rock smooth. She was relieved they found the tooth. No tooth AND no Tooth Fairy would not have made for a very good memory. She relieved Max of the items he was pressing to his stomach, so his hands, still dimpled with residual baby-fat could manipulate his tooth. Turning it every angle with a probing eye. Oblivious to all. She put his car in her purse and he handed her the “good luck coupon” carefully folded inside a long receipt– never taking eyes off his tooth. Sheesh, the child was just over four and knew coupons mattered.
Kate slid the crown on his head. Curious, about the coupon she unfolded the receipt like it was a chinese fortune out of a cookie. And bit her lip, as she looked at the crumpled “coupon”– her eyes misting over. The “good luck coupon” was a 5 dollar bill!
“Mumma, tonight is our lucky night,” mumbled Max as he held the tooth up the sun, noting the light’s effects on his tooth. “And Mummy, I LOVE the Tooth Fairy, I hope she loves my tooth.”
“I love her too, Max. And I know she loves all of you”.
The above story was written by Linda M Thomas, MSW, LSW and edited by her son, age 13, who has Asperger’s Syndrome.
This essay is the sole property of the Author Linda M Thomas and printed with permission on liverwritepray.com