Remember what it was like to lose your first tooth? It seemed to take forever. At my house, the tooth fairy took forever to come to my house; she made no overnight delivery. I learned a lot about delayed gratification when I was a little girl.
Of course Deanna lost some teeth way before I did. She always did everything first. Anyways, after the Tooth Fairy left her a quarter, I checked my teeth everyday. Vickie had a loose tooth, but that didn’t count, ’cause hers got knocked loose when my swing hit her in the mouth after I pumped way up high and jumped out. Vickie’s tooth dangled there for what seemed like forever, before I even got one loose tooth, but it never came out. That’s how I knew how to start wiggling mine, just checking to see if one was loose. Deanna got a whole quarter for each of her baby teeth.
The first tooth to get loose was on the bottom, middle. It wasn’t really loose, but it squeaked a little, so I started working at it, and after a while it was loose for real. I tried everything to get that tooth out. Nancy, from across the road told me to tie a string to one end and the other to a door knob, then she slammed the door hard. That failed. Deanna said she lost hers when she chomped on an apple. That failed. Pretty soon that tooth was so loose, I could wiggle it back and forth with my tongue. I kept working it and working it, until it was so loose, it wiggled when I breathed. When was that darn thing coming out?
“Come here, I’ll get it for you,” Dad said one night after supper. I knelt in front of him, open my mouth, and voilà, he snapped that tooth out of my head just like he snapped kernels of corn of a corncob. It didn’t hurt a bit. That’s what I was gonna do from now on, if my tooth was even a little loose, I was going straight to Dad. I stuck my tongue in the hole where the tooth had been. It tasted salty, probably from Dad’s fingers. I ran to look in the vanity mirror in Mom’s bedroom. Man-o-man, that tooth left a huge hole. I was so happy, now I was gonna get some money from the tooth fairy; for sure a quarter, ’cause I brushed my teeth every morning and night, no misses. My tooth was white as white can be, like Ivory Flakes, so it was worth a lot for the tooth fairy. I put that tooth right under my pillow. For once in my life, I wanted to go to bed.
The next morning, nothing. Same thing two days later. Even three days, and no-show for the tooth fairy. I checked the tooth for bad spots, ’cause Deanna said it was probably rotten, and the tooth fairy passed up on my tooth. No bad spots that I could see.
“Let’s put it in this little jar on the bookcase,” Mom said. “Maybe with all the pillows in this house, the Tooth Fairy can’t find it.” That made sense to me, but how would the Tooth Fairy know to look in a jar? I wrote a note in big letters with a red crayola, ’cause red’s my favorite color, and left it right on the dining room table, where she was sure to see.
Next day, a quarter in the jar. Eureka! I was rich. Time to start working on my other teeth.
That Tooth Fairy got slower and slower. Once she so long, I stopped checking every day. Then something wonderful happened. I was home from school, sick, which I hated. I loved school, and would say I felt good, even if I didn’t feel so hot, not like on Leave it to Beaver, where Wally was always coming up with ways to stay home, when he was perfectly fine and healthy. I tried to go to school when I was throwing up, but Mom said no to that one. Anyways, I was home, laying in bed, tossing around, flipping my pillow over to get to a cool side, when I heard this jingling sound, kinda like the coins in Dad’s pocket when he walked really fast. I jumped out of bed and looked under: Nothing. I jumped back in and heard the jingling again. I got on my hands and knees and jumped a little: Yup, that sound was coming from the bed, alright. I lifted up the covers, threw them all on the floor: Nothing. I jumped on the bed some more, this time standing up, as hard as I could: still jingling. Where could that be coming from? I looked under the bed again, then up at the slats under the mattress. Hey, there’s a little plastic tray under there. I needed help lifting the mattress, so I ran to get Mom.
“Holy smokes,” I said, “There’s a whole tray full of money under my mattress.”
“What?” Mom’s eyes got big and wide, ’cause for sure nothing like that ever happened in my house before. “Where would a tray full of money come from?”
“I bet I know.” Sure enough, the jar on the bookcase was empty. That little tray was so full of money, it spilled on the floor when Mom helped me get it out: pennies, dimes, quarters, nickles. It was like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I never had so much money in my whole entire life.
I’m pretty sure, there was no intended lesson in these acts of delayed gratification; the “Tooth Fairy” was most likely just over-burdened with lots of more urgent tasks on her to-do list. Still and all, isn’t that just the way life is some times? We work and work for a payoff, and just when we’re ready to give up hope: more than we ever dreamed gets delivered. The trick is to never stop working toward a goal, and never give up faith in yourself and those around you.