Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Down

Nothing interesting ever happens on trips on the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. You can make mental progress reports on your favorite rest stop renovation projects. You can trade choice words with drivers who slow up to 32 mph inside the Kittatinny Tunnel, as mandated by the Scary Monster who waits outside to snatch you up if you exceed 40. And, of course, you have church in a foreign language all over your radio dial. And that church comes in clearer than anything you've ever heard on satellite radio, which confounds on multiple levels.

We all sat up a little straighter today, then, when trudging between Blue Mountain and Carlisle, from deep in the third row came a sudden announcement from a person we thought should have been sleeping or at least been engrossed in something electronic: "Hey, my tooth came out..."

This is a big deal. We (mostly the kid) had been leery of this day since the day the first tooth wiggled a little. Does it hurt when it comes out? What if my mouth bleeds? What if it comes out when I'm sleeping? What if I swallow it?  What if the tooth fairy forgets to show up? Do I really need to tie it to a moving car to get it out like they did in the Jackass movie?

Fortunately, the answer to these was either No or N/A. We were relieved that there were no hysterical tears from the girl who has mastered hysterical tears for everything from elbow scrapes to commercials before YouTube videos. And on the turnpike no less, with the next rest stop a helpful 244 miles away and possibly closed for renovations.

Very soon a critical error was made, as critical errors often follow kids around like little brothers. Always the helpful type, she tried to open a juice box for her brother, the three-year-old, and entrusted him with the tooth. Predictably, within seconds the tooth was gone. Four minutes after her first baby tooth extracted itself without incident, we had lost the tooth. Cue the hysterical tears. On the turnpike, no less. With the next rest stop now just 239 miles away.

Fortunately, my wife is tremendous with this stuff. She already had three alternate plans available for the Tooth Fairy:

1. We'll write a letter to the tooth fairy and explain the mishap.
2. We'll provide a reasonable facsimile of the tooth from stones from the driveway.
3. <biggest longshot> We'll pull over and find the tooth.

Remarkably, this eased my daughter's concerns. Even more remarkably, for the first time in his young life, the three-year-old boy showed remorse for something he was directly responsible for. He was genuinely hurt that he had lost his sister's prized tooth. "We'll find it, I PROMISE, it was a accident," he explained in a pitch-perfect attempt at damage control. I would have liked to have seen similar remorse last week when he wrote his name in toothpaste on the bathroom carpet.

Of course there were no more rest stops before our exit, so we drove 30 more minutes and pulled into a Red Lobster parking lot and began searching for the missing tooth. Happy to report that within mere minutes the tooth, roughly the size of a sesame seed, was retrieved. Mortified to think what I would have done with the tooth had I searched first, because even after I held it and examined it, I did not think it was a regulation tooth. Kids are so tiny.

The tooth was then transferred to a Ziploc baggie (Are we sure it's a Ziploc?) and then onto my wife's purse, which is the best place on Earth if you need to keep something sacred, but the worst if you need to find it quickly. Luckily we had the time.

That night, my wife came up with a second ingenious idea...instead of giving our daughter money for the tooth, we'd give her one of those stupid dollar coins instead. (Stop. I'm well aware those dollar coins are legal tender, but really. You feel totally ripped off when you receive them, and you feel genuine relief when you give them. Plus they're gold-ish. So kids think they're worth over 12 bajillion dollars.)

Also, we bought our daughter a book about tooth loss that the Tooth Fairy herself signed and dated, and my wife slid that under her pillow with the coin. We'll do something similar 30 years from now, when we plan to start talking about the birds and the bees.

The next morning, my daughter found the book and the coin and glided out to the living room to show her mother, then into our bedroom to show her brother and me. Cris(e)s averted. And the little brother is asking when he can start losing teeth. Let's hope he doesn't watch the Jackass movies.
The Tooth Fairy


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