You come upstairs from an invigorating run on the bridge to nowhere (treadmill) and she's waiting for you, grin on her face, sparkle in her eyes.
Sunshine, what's up?
Obviously she's up and it's after 9:30pm and you'd hoped she was asleep.
She wide-mouth grins and leans to one side so I can clearly see the space where a tooth used to be. The hole is full of bright red blood; there are stains of the same hue on the towel she's holding.
Mom said to put it in the tooth fairy pillow. Bye!
I watch her stride down the hall toward her bedroom. I'm not sure she doesn't have her doubts about the tooth fairy, but for today, for now, she still believes. My mind immediately registers that I don't have any cash, nothing, nada. This is not an uncommon experience for me. I commiserate with the missus and she's broke too.
And so, you find yourself traipsing off to Safeway at 10pm to get coffee and potatoes and some cash. Toaster strudels found their way in the basket as well; thus, the treadmill. And you're driving back home at 10:14pm and the bank sign says 53 degrees and the town is drowsy and you're glad to be alive. Broke, but glad to be alive.
And you begin to cry. For you think about the little girl with a blood red hole in her mouth and how she's probably fast asleep by now. You're thinking about how she struggles some days with being in the middle. You're thinking about the fact that she lost something tonight and about the things she will lose in days to come: friends, maybe boyfriends (my lord), hopes, dreams, pieces of her identity, maybe even herself if something tragic occurs.
You cry because for now, tonight, at 10:15pm and 53 degrees, the thing she lost will grow back, good as new. And for now, you, the Dad, have the power to quietly, every so gently, slide some cash under her pillow and make it even better. You cry because you know as sure as coffee and potatoes that days will come when the tooth fairy will fly away for good and she will come to you with something she's lost and you'll stand there impotent before this middle girl you love so much. And for all the strength you've developed running on treadmills, you cannot make it all better, help her find something that will grow back, good as new.
And so I closed the garage and wiped my eyes and slipped the toaster strudels in the freezer quietly, ever so gently. I counted out $2. Yes, I know it's a little much for a tooth, but I see it as an opportunity to imitate the grandiose of the Father. I gather up my strength, put on my wings and fly to her room to do my best fairy. She doesn't move a muscle. I've gotten good at this. I sprinkle prayer-ee dust as I fly away...
Sleep well, my sunshine. I'll do the most and best I can by you for now, these days. Or at least I'll try. Thanks for still believing in fairies. Thanks for still believing in me, giving me chances to fly. You are beautiful. Days will come when you'll lose things larger than teeth. Please still come to me and tell me. I'll do all I can, but it may not help. Still, maybe we can sit and eat toaster strudels together and talk about the blood red hole in your heart and I can tell you of things I've lost. And of what I've found.