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Are We There Yet?

When my almost-13-year-old son lost yet another tooth last week at Grandma’s, it set off a series of events that may have changed more than his gaping smile. It all started with the back right molar and a tasty apple – the former being jarred loose by the latter and causing enough blood to send Grandma scurrying for the paper towels. My son worked and worked that very large tooth until he’d successfully plied it free and stood grinning before me. (By the way, this is another thing no one warns mothers about – something this large just doesn’t seem like it should voluntarily leave a child’s mouth). Nick long ago gave up on the notion of a Tooth Fairy, but still expects to be rewarded for his losses, so he washed the tooth, dropped it in my palm and announced cheerily, “You can just give me the money later, Mom.” I set the tooth on the armchair and promptly forgot about it, inadvertently knocking it off to blend in with my mother’s white shag carpeting, where it stayed the duration of our visit.I was reminded several times throughout the week that the Tooth Fairy still owed Nick money and I told him if he could find the tooth in the shaggy rug before the dog ate it he might earn a bonus. Miraculously on the last day of our visit, we spotted it. Perhaps it was the little traces of blood still clinging to it that made it stand out from the white carpeting. I tucked it in my pocket, handed Nick a five dollar bill for his trouble and hugged my mother goodbye.An hour up the road we were stopped at a stoplight where a homeless man held a sign proclaiming: “Even 25 cents would help.”My son and I looked at each other in the front seats, and I wondered aloud about his plight. The temperature gauge read 98 degrees. My family and I were cool inside our air-conditioned vehicle and about to make a short stop for snacks to tide us over for the three remaining hours of the drive home. The man before us sat hungry and baking in the sun, relaxing on the hot metal guardrail of a busy off-ramp. Even 25 cents would help. “Let’s give him this money,” I said quickly, reaching for the bill that lay next to me on the console.”That’s my Tooth Fairy money!” my son said, a slight grin already tugging at the corners of his mouth. I looked back at the man, then again at my son for approval. Nick promptly leaned over and rolled down my window as a rush of hot air filled the car. I called the man over and handed him the money.”Thank you so much,” he said sincerely.”You’re welcome. Take good care of yourself,” I offered, just as sincerely.”Oh, I’m trying, ma’am.” He grinned his own toothless grin at my son and me, and hurried back across the street to his perch.”He seemed nice,” I said as the light turned green and we began moving.My son was quiet for a moment and then he burst into a grin wide enough to show off his missing back tooth. He reached over and grabbed my leg, giving it a familiar pat and said with a warmth and love I will never forget, “You are such a good person.”It’s tough to know when our random acts will turn into teachable moments. Or when the Tooth Fairy might make an unexpected visit. Charla Belinski’s column appears every other week in the Post Independent. Contact her at belinskis@comcast.net.


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