What the Tooth Fairy Brings
My daughter, Molly, has had a loose tooth for several weeks. Each morning she asks me to pull it out so the tooth fairy can come. Each morning, when I reach in to grab the tooth with a tissue, she flinches and says, "Maybe tomorrow." So we wait another day. And another. And then yesterday, she was eating a waffle for breakfast and it fell out of its own accord. So she put the tooth in a little plastic tube, wrote a note to the tooth fairy asking for money or a gem, and put it under her pillow.
At ten p.m. my wife asked me if I had five dollars: I only had twenties. She rummaged and found a ten dollar bill. This morning, when Molly came up to our bedroom, we asked if the tooth fairy had brought her anything.
"Only ten dollars," she said glumly.
"Ten dollars is a lot of money," I said.
She shrugged, and hid away under our bed covers.
I took a shower, annoyed that I had to navigate a pouting child. I found Molly a few minutes later curled into a ball, sucking her thumb.
"What's up?" I asked. She shrugged. "Are you disappointed that you only got money?"
"I wanted something cool."
"Money's not cool? You can buy things with it."
"Not anymore," she said.
And she was right, of course. She hadn't been to a store in weeks. In normal times, ten dollars would have meant a trip to Target or Spinellis, our neighborhood shop. Without being able to quite articulate it, her hope was the tooth fairy would break the tedium of her days. And who can blame her. Last night, when I took out those twenties from my wallet, the money seemed strange even to me. I hadn't handled cash in weeks, the very definition of social currency, its germiness now a thing to be rightly feared. Up until this point, Molly had been in good spirits during our family quarantine, adapting to social engagements via Facetime, and happy with more IPad than we would normally allow.
"What if I take your ten dollars and go buy you something with it?"
"Trader Joe's, whatever you want." That got the first smile of the day, and she made her shopping list.
It's challenging to know how to do right by our kids in the best of times, but these strange days make it harder, or at least more confusing. In addition to outright fear, Covid has brought a great deal of ambivalence. Our collective nerves are shot, confidence obliterated. On our morning walk, my wife began to berate herself for not putting something more alluring under Molly's pillow. I told her we don't have any magical gems lying around the house.
In our home, I am the only one going to the store these days. I told myself I wouldn't go until it was necessary—once a week at most— but making Molly happy this morning seemed worth the slightly increased risk. Trader Joe's has adapted to Covid with grim efficiency: standing in line outside the store with six feet of distance between everyone, tape lines on the ground for accuracy; antibacterial wipes everywhere, no more than fifty customers in the store at a time. Inside, the store was quiet, as though we all had virtual duct tape over our mouths.
The treats made my daughter happy, which made me happy, and for today that is
abundance enough . . .