Today, I was an accomplice to murder. I took not just one life, but three, all in a matter of minutes. It started out like any other early January morning—black and cold with a cranky, relentless siren screaming at me from the nightstand. I fumbled with the snooze button, but in the end, settled for knocking the meddling clock off the nightstand and falling out of bed onto a pile of dirty clothes. I dodged stray toys on the way to the bathroom and barely made it there alive. That was nothing. The real trouble began just
as I was getting out of the shower. There I stood, shivering and naked when a knock on the door sounded the alarm in my head. Wrapping myself in a towel, and bracing for the worst, I cracked open the door. There she stood, warp-eyed, disheveled and shielding her eyes from the glaring lights. I knew what she was going to say just as her words slithered into my steamy sanctuary. I didn’t however, have a clue what poison I was about to deliver.
“Mommy,” came the concerned whine, “The tooth fairy didn’t take my tooth, and she didn’t leave any money under my pillow.” Just as I suspected–the tooth fairy! Couldn’t she ever get it right! This was the second time she missed a pick-up.
“Maybe she was really busy last night. Or maybe you were awake when she came by. If you’re awake, she can’t come in.”
“Mom, I slept like a log last night.” I searched the blue-green eyes of my otherwise sophisticated child, looking for signs of doubt. If she was ready for the truth then it was time for the truth. The smoke screens and lies were catching up to me. How much further could I go before I was found out?
“This has happened before honey. Just cut the tooth fairy a little slack and go get ready for school.” That seemed to do the trick. The interrogation was over. Or was it?
There I was, face to face with myself in the mirror, and I didn’t like what I saw. Oh sure, the concealer and eyeliner helped a bit, but nine years of lying had taken its toll. Was it time to end the charade? Every year the questions got deeper—harder, and the lies grew to match. I knew the day would come when I’d have to end it all. Was this the day? I did what any other criminal mother would do. I prayed
“God, if she comes in here with any more questions I can’t answer honestly, then I’ll know it’s time to come clean—the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
“Mommy?” The words were barely out of my head before she be-bopped right back to my room. “Since there is such thing as a tooth fairy, that must mean that real fairies exist too, right?” Thinking that it would have been nice to at least have the dignity of being dressed, I pulled the towel tighter around myself and sat down on my bed beside this beautiful dreamer.
I started at the beginning, with the big red guy and didn’t pull any punches. The exact words are a blur now. You see, it was a crime of passion set off by a course of events I could not have predicted. These were not premeditated homicides, yet it took only a few short sentences to knock off jolly old Saint Nick. I didn’t stop there. The Easter bunny lost his place in the world faster than you can bite the ears off a chocolate relic. By the time I got to the little sprite I blame for starting this whole mess, my daughter was sobbing and begging me to stop.
“I don’t want to know any more Mommy. Please stop!” It was too late to turn back now. The tooth fairy had to go.
The scene was bloody. I had ripped the magical little fantasy world right out of my daughter’s heart and she let me know it. The kid who refused to cry under duress, discipline, or disappointment quivered and shook, shedding more tears than a melting iceberg. Tenderness, logic, bribery and “none of your friends still believe in Santa” were useless defenses. She fled the scene and I returned to the mirror to touch up my streaking mascara.
I was the bad guy, that much was clear. What wasn’t so clear was that I was a victim too—a victim of my own good intentions. I knew this day would come, but I thought all the joy and magic of childhood expectation and wonder would far exceed the small speed bump of truth that lay far off down the road of broken dreams.
When I was six, I delighted in defrocking these myths. I delighted even more in sharing this profound wisdom with my ignorant older sister. She did not thank me.
I didn’t expect my daughter to thank me either. But yelling at me through her tears that “it’s like getting a dog and having it all your life then it dies and you can’t ever, ever get a new one!” seemed a bit extreme. She proceeded to explain how I ruined everything because next Christmas she was going to ask Santa for snow; which is quite the request. The Puget Sound is not known for winter blizzards.
“Santa cannot sanction snow.”
“What does that mean?” she hiccupped through sobs.
“It means the weather is not Santa’s gift to offer.”
That confession was the last nail in the coffin of my conviction. I had been wrong! Wrong from the start! All those heartless people who told me it would be a mistake to let my children celebrate the holidays with this reckless, imaginative abandon, had been right. I had scarred her for life. She would never trust me again, and my son would be next. If I ever had another child, I would tell it from conception that all this nonsense about saints and bunnies and fairies is a bunch of hooey. We’d take the Grinch’s approach and watch the fun from afar with bitter hearts—bitter, but at least not broken!
How we made it through breakfast this morning is still a mystery. I was sure home school would be closed for the day. But somewhere between toast and tooth-brushing the tears turned to a trickle. School started and the scowls turned into smiles; and the smiles eventually turned into just another day.
At dinner tonight, my seven-year old son with loose teeth of his own, pondered aloud the mystery of just how the tooth-fairy knows the exact right time to come. He had slept through the early morning scandal, but it seemed my cover was about to be blown for the second time, crushing two children in one day. My daughter’s fork clattered to her plate, sending peas flying. Our eyes met. With a sly smile and a lap full of legumes, she offered her younger brother a theory that the tooth fairy probably used a giant computer system to track everything. Accepting that as a logical answer, my youngest went back to his dinner with no further fuss.
My daughter beamed at me. I had traded one secret for another with her. Although a traumatic tantrum was the price we both paid, forgiveness came in sharing this new secret. She was in-the-know; had one foot in the grown-up world now and felt the power that comes with every great discovery. Exchanging one miserable morning for nine years of magic seemed a mere misdemeanor in the grand scheme of parental crimes. After all–the saints, fairies, and bunnies get resurrected in all the little hearts that still believe.