Last night was the end of an era. Ruby knows.
We made a pit stop in our bedroom before I tucked her in last night.
“Mom”, Ruby said, hesitating a bit, “are you the one who leaves a dollar under my pillow when I lose a tooth, or is it the Tooth Fairy?”
I gulped. How to answer?
“What do you think?” I asked. I learned the answer-a-question-with-a-question from watching psychologists on TV.
“I don’t believe in magic”, she said, all the wisdom of her 8 years apparent in her statement. “So it must be you” – she pantomimed me, walking silently and deliberately – “tiptoeing into my room to slip it under my pillow.”
I told her it was all true. I thought for a beat. Now what?
“How does that make you feel? Do you feel tricked, or okay about it?” I asked, reaching for her.
“Well, I hate to be tricked”, she informed me.
I tried to explain that sometimes moms and dads want to bless their kids without them necessarily knowing who the source is. She reminded me about last Easter, when she spied the Easter baskets “hidden” in our bedroom. She started to make the connection then, she told me, index finger poised on her upper lip, her face a study in concentration as she recalled the discovery.
“There’s no Santa Claus, either, is there? No Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy.” She looked a little deflated.
I held her and told her we never meant to deceive her. We wanted to have some fun with her, lend a little mystery, build anticipation. Then Ruby and I came to the all important question.
“Do you want us to continue with the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa?” I held her, this tiny girl who still surprises me with her insights.
“Yes,” she sighed. “I do.”
I have dreaded the arrival of this day. I remember so many Christmases and Easters, her eyes lit up with joy at discovering presents, wondering how the Easter Bunny even got into the house in the first place. We had many discussions about Santa and how he fit into the Nativity, not to mention down our chimney with the gas fireplace.
Ruby took it in stride. I snuggled her into her bed. I tickled her back and prayed for her. I still believe in magic, the joy and wonder of living in this world and the surprises hidden in everyday life. This old world is full of the unexpected. It just might not look like a huge bunny or an old fat man in a red suit.