The Herald Bulletin

April 16, 2013

Jim Bailey: You can bank on the tooth fairy one way or another


— Grandson Ronnie, 10, lost a baby molar recently. If you have kids, you know what that means: a visit from the tooth fairy.

For Ruth, his mom, however, that posed a problem. It seems the tooth fairy’s cash was depleted. His lisping sister Gracie, 5, lost two front teeth a week earlier, and the days of exchanging a quarter or so for the tooth are long gone. What to do?

In this case, the tooth fairy made a quick trip to the Bank of Ronnie. The smile on his face the next morning was paid for by the boy himself. Enough to give the tooth fairy a guilt trip.

To repay the loan, the tooth fairy arranged a money transfer from dad Ron’s wallet. To cover her fiscal bases, she properly informed him of the transaction. With a chuckle, he remarked that the loan probably could have just been written off since Ronnie would have been unlikely to catch it in an audit. Never mind that the precocious son was a member of Maxwell Intermediate School’s state runnerup Math Bowl team.

Ronnie, of course, is at the age when fantasy and reality collide concerning childhood heroes such as the tooth fairy, Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. Ruth noted he started to broach the subject on one recent occasion. Trouble is, little sister, a staunch believer, was present at the time. So Mom simply told him, “You don’t believe, you don’t receive.”

That’s generally good enough for kids of a certain age. Ronnie’s cousin, Jason, also recently lost a tooth (this time the tooth fairy’s resources were sufficient). “He is 9 and still believes,” admitted Becky, his mom, “or maybe they just act like it for cash.”

In the case of cousin Cameron, 9, last year he glimpsed a human face through the Easter bunny’s mesh mask. So much for that fantasy.

For this generation, “cash” means folding money. We were fortunate that our four kids grew up a generation earlier when the tooth fairy passed out mere quarters for those dental souvenirs while they slept.

And in our day it was even less. Bonnie and I remember waking up to find nickels and dimes under our pillows after baby teeth came out.

Then as now, sometimes the tooth fairy’s rounds were erratic at times. Bonnie remembers one Sunday morning when her tooth was still there, unredeemed. Strangely enough, when they returned from church that day, she found a dime where the tooth had been. Bonnie didn’t know if the tooth fairy skipped Sunday school that morning, but her dad had the biggest grin on his face when she discovered the coin.

My parents were reluctant to promote fantasies, but there were occasions when I found a nickel or dime under my pillow after going to sleep on the remains of a tooth.

My, what inflation has done to the process.

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by e-mail at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.