At the end of the kitchen island sat Thing 1, waiting for her two lightly toasted slices of bread to decrust, butter and bury under a blizzard of cinnamon and sugar as she does most mornings.
Suddenly, she burst into tears.
"Mommy," she cried, "did I do something wrong?"
On Friday night, Thing 1 had won a weeks-long battle with a wiggly eyetooth, a hard bite into a Red Delicious delivering the final blow to pry it from her gum. She dutifully put her vanquished enemy into a plastic sandwich bag, left it on her bedside table and went to sleep, dreaming the dreams 9-year-old girls do.
She awoke Saturday to find the bag and its contents untouched.
Our little girl had been dissed by the Tooth Fairy.
I don't recall when I stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy or any of the other mythical figures of childhood, save Santa Claus. I gave up on him around age 7 when peer pressure and his failure to deliver a puppy and several other items I had clearly marked in the Sears catalog did him in.
My faith in St. Nick was briefly restored two years later. The nun teaching my catechism class convinced me to believe again by talking to us endlessly about faith and giving us a few examples of magical things that had happened to some of her past students, such as the one who found a cigar stubbed out in an ashtray Christmas morning when no one in the child's family smoked.
I came home possessed by The Holy Spirit and announced at the dinner table my being born again in all things Santa.
A few days later, my older sister hustled me away from my collection of "Peanuts" paperbacks, yanking me down the stairs to the living room. Underneath the sofa lay a stash of unwrapped toys, games and clothes, including the Star Trek Colorforms set I had been eyeing at a local store.
The Catholic Church and me haven't been on good terms since. I mean, when a nun flat out lies to you about Santa Claus, how are you honestly supposed to then square yourself with the Resurrection, transubstantiation or just the miracle of the fish and the loaves?
"Oh, that tooth came out pretty late last night. She must not have known about it," My Love said as she consoled Thing 1. "And aren't you supposed to put it under your pillow? You just had it in the wrong place, I bet. You try again tonight. Sometimes you just need to give things a second chance."
Sunday morning, I found Thing 1 in her usual spot, waiting for toast.
"Morning, sunshine," I said. "How's it going?"
She grunted, which is a relatively normal breakfast table response for her but still I wasn't sure if the extra dollar left in exchange for her tooth the night before had sufficiently restored her childhood belief system or not.
The day and night passed. This morning, I again found myself at the kitchen island, eating my oatmeal next to Thing 1. She bit into her toast and a puff of cinnamon dust rose from the bread.
As I went to pour myself another cup of coffee, I asked her to check the school lunch calendar. After declaring she would buy today's offering of oven-baked chicken nuggets, she asked why she and her little brother had a day off later this week.
"It's Good Friday," I said. "That's the day people who follow Christian religions believe Jesus, their Savior, died for their sins to save the world."
Without a pause, she asked, "When's Easter?"
"Ooo!" she said. "I wonder what the Easter Bunny will bring me this year?"
My Uncool Past
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