I can’t remember a time when I believed in the whimsical; when I felt like effervescent sprites traveled great distances to pay cold hard cash for teeth and bunnies hopped to the homes of Christian children to leave them baskets full of rabbit-themed candies. I don’t remember flitting around through life contemplating a land where lollipops sprouted from the ground like flowers and candy bars grew on trees. A place which was gently ruled by a benevolent princess made out of licorice and marshmallows. Maybe I did, and I’ve just forgotten, but the only magical Imagineering I recall from my childhood was stretching my mind to invent maladies and illnesses to suit my hypochondria. I have a vivid memory of imagining it was possible for me to get pregnant at five. I believed in my body’s ability to do the impossible to make my life more miserable, not that impossible creatures existed in this world to make life more fantastical.
But I must have believed in magic at some point because I remember moments when the reality under the magic revealed itself. When I saw the inner workings and realized that things aren't as mystical as I thought. The biggest one of these revelations was that Santa doesn’t exist. (If anyone reading this didn’t realize it before, I’m super sorry I just sucked the last bit of whimsy out of your life). The day I made the discovery, I was innocently looking through a family album when I was seven. I came across a picture of my mom writing. I looked closer and saw that it was the letter Santa had written us a couple of years earlier. It took me a moment to realize my mom wasn’t just copying the message, but that she was Santa Claus. I wondered if my dad had snapped the picture to expose the cracks in the façade since he could be pretty mean-spirited at times. Undeterred, I moved forward with my life pretending that I still believed in Santa since I knew a world without Santa was present-less one.
That’s why I also pretended I believed in the tooth fairy when I cracked my molar while chewing ice when I was seven years old. I heard the snap and tasted metal as my gums began to bleed, but I don’t remember any pain. I felt the half tooth with my tongue. The molar had a silver filling on it. (I’m only just now realizing that might have been dangerous because didn’t they used to use mercury in fillings? I’m almost sure they were. Does this mean I’ve reached my max allowance for mercury consumption in my life? Can I no longer eat tuna?)
After I cracked my tooth, only one half fell out right away. That night I put the tooth under my pillow not because I believed in the tooth fairy but because I believed in money. If a regular tooth was worth 50 cents in the late 80’s, then half a tooth was good for a quarter, at least. Once I lost the other half, I’d have 50 cents, and I’d be well on my way to buying myself a 100 Grand candy bar without having to steal quarters from the top of my dad’s dresser.
When I woke up the next morning, there was a $20 bill under my pillow. I wondered if maybe the “tooth fairy” saw value in a half of a tooth because it was unique and was willing to give up 40 times the asking price for it. I knew better than to believe that nonsense too long. I had a feeling that the “tooth fairy” had been up late the night before drinking whiskey on the rocks while watching the news and had accidentally pulled a 20 out of his wallet. I, also, knew that the “tooth fairy” was gonna be pissed when he’d found out what he’d done, but he operates under cover of deep secrecy so he wouldn’t say anything when he realized his mistake. I’d like to think that the “tooth fairy” was seething as he watched me prance about with the $20 bill while he drank his morning coffee.
I, now, get to be the tooth fairy and Santa Claus for Darla and Jude and I’m failing miserably at the job. Not in the way that I accidentally give them too much money, but that I forget to do it all together. I sometimes wonder if my anxiety-ridden childhood has made me less capable of creating a magical environment in my home. I read parenting blogs that advise on how to build fairy kingdoms in dew-filled, overgrown gardens or project constellations on the ceiling with a flashlight and some construction paper and I wonder if I’m destroying my kids’ lives by not being whimsical enough. I’m not even capable of doing the most basic steps to keep the magic in their lives. I’ve accidentally used “Santa Only” wrapping paper to wrap non-Santa gifts. I’ve barely disguised my handwriting when sending notes from magical creatures.
Most recently, Greg and I had even forgotten to retrieve the tooth from underneath Darla’s pillow for an entire week. One morning, I felt so awful that I wrote a letter from the tooth fairy promising that the money would be under her pillow that night. I then proceeded to forget to do the whole deal when that night came. So much time had elapsed, that Darla even lost another tooth. We told Darla that the tooth fairy probably didn’t come before because she knew the other tooth was going to fall out. Despite the stakes being raised, we still forgot to put money under her pillow that night. Darla, taking a hint from the tooth fairy, even stopped putting her teeth under her pillow. Eventually, she got the money, but the magic was gone. I could tell her heart wasn’t in it when she danced with the dollar bills.
As I watched her face fall morning after morning, I felt terrible that I’d done such a terrible job. Since this has happened, I wonder if Darla’s going to end up getting a boring desk job because I’ve created such a non-magical home. Greg carries much of the weight of keeping the house exciting with fantastical games and storytelling, but there’s only so much he can do. Maybe, if I kept things more exciting, she’d be destined to be a famous artist or playwright. I think I’m doing the best I can, so maybe a boring desk job it is!
That being said, as I've gotten older, I have begun to believe that there are mystical layers to our world. I felt it when Darla and Jude came screaming into the world. I see it every day as I watch them both develop into themselves. I know it's there when Greg and I laugh so hard at the kids that we can't breathe. I've witnessed the magic when Darla first learned how to read. I've watched it take shape as Jude tries to dance. I can smell it when, on the first days of spring, Los Angeles becomes overwhelmed by the scent of jasmine. The magic might not be filled with fairies and candy coated raindrops, but it's fairytale-like none the less.