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May 9, 2014

B.J. RILEY: Tooth Fairy’s real; I’ve seen her

TERRE HAUTE — As strange as it might sound, I think of the tooth fairy each Mother’s Day. Tomorrow is the day to celebrate our mothers and show our appreciation, taking one day to focus just on them. Each Mother’s Day, I think about how lucky I was to have the mother that I had.

“How does Mother’s Day remind you of the tooth fairy?” you might ask. That is a fair question, and I will gladly share with you this wonderful story.

Many years ago, my second-oldest son, Michael, asked me if I had ever seen the tooth fairy. I thought for a bit and replied “Yes I have!” When he asked me that question, I immediately thought back to my close encounter with the winged one.  

In every house, the tooth fairy exchanges money for the extracted tooth differently. When I was a kid, in our house, we wrapped the tooth in a napkin or paper towel and slid the bundle under our pillow. During the night, the tooth fairy would have the ability to change that tooth into money inside the same paper towel so that when my sister or I woke up the next morning, there was money inside the napkin, rather than the tooth.

It was the greatest magic in the world and as a youngster, I was amazed that the tooth fairy could accomplish such a dazzling feat. Never mind that the fairy of teeth could not get into our locked house without a chimney. Never mind that she had to get all of the extracted teeth in the world in one night magically changed to money.

And never mind that this phenomena occurred seven nights a week for all 52 weeks. How can that happen day in and day out? Every time that I had a tooth come out, I got the money without delay and, each time, was truly amazed.

So on this occasion, as was routine, I carefully folded my tooth up in the paper towel my mother had given me. It was quarter-folded over so that it would be impossible for her to shake the tooth out by mistake in case I was sleeping on top of the napkin and she had to reach to pull out the paper towel. See, I wasn’t sure if the tooth fairy carefully took the tooth out and then replaced it with money and then placed it back under my pillow or — and this is the method my sister believed happened — the tooth fairy would wave her wand over the general area and the money replaced the tooth, thereby not needing to retrieve the paper towel from under my head.  

Anyway, I wrapped the tooth and then as I went to bed, I placed the tooth under my pillow very close to the side of the bed. I wanted to make it easy for her because I knew she had many more stops to make and she needed to be efficient. I went to bed at the appointed time and as usual when I had a tooth exchange event, had trouble falling asleep. I was told many times by my mother that if I wasn’t asleep when the tooth fairy arrived, she would just skip me, and I would be out of luck. No money and instead I would be stuck with a used tooth that had no value. None of my friends had ever been skipped, and I was not going to be the first in my group to mess up.

I don’t remember going to sleep, but I do remember waking up. I heard a bit of noise and opened my eyes. The light shining through the bedroom door was bright and my eyes had problems adjusting. As I looked toward the door, I caught a glimpse of a shape quietly going toward the door. Then, suddenly, I heard something very disturbing. As the tooth fairy was making her way to the door, she stubbed her toe on one of several toys that I had left on the floor. As the obvious pain had overtaken her, she lashed out with a big cuss word! I could not believe what I had heard! I pulled the covers over my head and held on tight. I could hear the limp in the tooth fairy’s walk and then the door closed.

I lay awake most of the night wondering if she was going to re-transform the money back to my tooth (at this point, I was convinced my sister was right, and it was easy for the tooth fairy to take the money back). I was also wondering if she was going to be able to complete her rounds. If I had made the tooth fairy cuss, what terrible fate awaited me! I then convinced myself that she had never cussed and that my transgression of clutter would result in a fate that I could not imagine.

I waited until daylight came and then got out of bed to get breakfast. Before I left the room, I slowly picked up my pillow and there was the paper towel, just as I had left it when I went to bed the night before. I slowly opened it up almost certain not to find money. But lo and behold, there was a crisp one dollar bill (remember this was in 1967) and a wave of relief poured over my body. She let me keep the money!

I bounded out into the kitchen and proceeded to get my cereal. My mother was also up and sitting at the table. She asked me if I got money for my tooth, and I was so excited to give a positive response: Yes! Yes! Yes! She asked me if I had heard anything last night that was strange while I was sleeping. I paused because I was not sure if this was a test. After some thought, I concluded that it was and answered with honesty, “Yes ma’am, I did.” I went on to explain that I had awoken to see the outline of the tooth fairy leaving my room. My mother was sort of taken aback, and asked what I had heard. I told her that I had heard the tooth fairy stub her toe and that she had said a bad word that I could not repeat.

My mother then proceeded to tell me that the tooth fairy had come to her room to complain about the toys on my floor, and she told my mother about the bad word she had said. She did tell my mom that she had cussed before, but only when she hurt herself on toys left on floors by inconsiderate boys and girls. She had told my mother to apologize for the bad word, but that I needed to be cleaner if I wanted her to come back.

I was so relieved to know that I wasn’t going to be the child that caused the tooth fairy to get in trouble with God and Jesus. Thank goodness. My mother then told me that it would be a good idea if I kept my room clean every day so that the tooth fairy would not worry about clutter when another tooth came out. I agreed. I did not want to have a reputation with the tooth fairy. I was worried she would bad-mouth me when talking with Santa, the Easter Bunny and any other friendly spirit that would visit. I promised my mother that I would do better.

I remember how pleased my mother was to hear that I would turn over a new leaf. As she left the kitchen, I noticed that she had a limp. I thought about asking her about it. But, nah, there is no way that the tooth fairy and my mother both stubbed their toes in my room.

So yes, Michael, there is a tooth fairy, and I have seen her.  

Happy Mother’s Day, and I want to say to the tooth fairy, thanks for not missing me even though my room wasn’t always cleaned up.

B.J. Riley is the publisher of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at 812-231-4297 and bjriley@tribstar.com.

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    March 12, 2010

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