John’s arms dangled over the edge of the shopping cart. He dropped the box in.
“What are you doing?” John’s father loomed.
“Looking for oranges.” John waved a plastic bag. Well, he had been looking for oranges when the chocolate covered strawberries called to him. It was the kind of treat his parents never let him get, even though it was basically a healthy snack. They would just say “No, John” and “Put it back, John.”
He felt sneaky, and a little naughty. He hoped wouldn’t be in too much trouble when they found out. Mostly, though, he hoped for a chocolate covered strawberry.
They unloaded the cart at the checkout, and John started to sweat. His dad lifted the chilled plastic box onto the belt. His mom put it in a canvas bag to take home. How could they not notice? John thought. At home, John put away the bananas and kiwifruit, dreaming of chocolately berries.
Suddenly his dad swooped towards his mom and gave her a kiss.
“The strawberries are a nice surprise! Thank you!”
His mom’s eyes opened wide.
“Oh, I thought you… you’re welcome…”
John’s dad handed John a plate with a luscious strawberry, and John dug in with a grin. It was cool and juicy and very, very sweet.
When Child 1— we’ll call him Lonzo— was about four, we started hyping Santa.
“He’s magical man who brings you presents!” we enthused. “He leaves them under the Christmas tree!”
Lonzo, a grounded, practical child, was skeptical.
As parents, we wanted to stay away from “good children” and “naughty children,” we had decided, so we told him: “Santa loves children. He just wants to make them happy.”
This was not a narrative Lonzo was familiar with. Adults living to please children? Didn’t sound right.
We explained: magical reindeer, down the chimney with care, etc.
“We don’t have a chimney.”
“Well, air ducts,” my husband said, vaguely waving at the ceiling, “He’ll come in through the furnace. Santa’s magic.”
Lonzo slept not a wink on Christmas Eve, fearing the magical man who apparently had full leave to break and enter and roam the house.
You’ll never know when he’s coming! we had emphasized. He’s super secret and quiet!
These thoughts all occurred to me as I sat with a terrified child at about 4AM, wondering if dawn and its soothing light would be enough to calm him.
“He’ll be in my room!” Lonzo wailed, from bedtime until midnight. After midnight his frets became anxious, more quiet than noisy. “He can go anywhere. He can see me all the time.”
When morning did arrive, bringing presents and cinnamon rolls and a full awareness of his non-magical surroundings, Lonzo smiled and relaxed and fell asleep for three hours.
The next year, Lonzo and his dad composed a polite email requesting Santa skip our house and deliver any presents intended for our address via UPS.
All this goes to explain why we regularly have to decide what to do with baby teeth.
Obviously, the Tooth Fairy is totally out. A magical being that explicitly comes into your room and rummages around in your bed, looking for your body parts, leaving you a token payment? Lonzo would never sleep again.
But what do we do with these teeth? We have three children between seven and nine, so we’re hemorrhaging teeth around here.
I can’t stand the idea of having a jar with little pieces of my children’s heads (ick-ick-ick), so we throw them out. But then I think— I made that, can I really just pitch it?
So what do we do with no-longer-needed deciduous teeth? Especially in January, when we can’t very well bury them in the garden?
What does the Tooth Fairy do with them, now that I think about that?