At dinner Big Sis's tenth loose tooth was already sticking straight out, as if on a hinge. "Ow...owowowowowwww," she moaned with each bite of pasta. After dinner, she gingerly pulled her tooth out and presented it to us with a flourish. We cheered, and she retrieved the Tooth Fairy Pillow from the cupboard.
At 9:30 PM, before I succumbed to sleep myself, I peeked into her bedroom one last time to see if my little anxious non-sleeper/believer had nodded off. Her mouth was agape, and one arm hung limply from the side of the bed. I kneeled beside her and reached across her warm little body to deposit the dollar bill (to spend) and fifty-cent coin (to save) into the pocket of her Fairy Pillow. And then I climbed gratefully into bed.
Fifteen minutes later I felt the sensation of searing eyeballs boring into mine and looked up from my reading. She was standing there and staring at me, tears streaming down her face.
"What?" I sat up, alarmed and filled with dread. She simply shook her head silently.
I felt a glimmer of comprehension and goosebumps. Noooo...
"What is it?" I asked again, more gently.
"You're going to be mad." She bit her lip.
"No, no I won't. Come here," I murmured, and patted the bed beside me and hugged her as she sobbed.
"I'm so sorry, Mommy. I saw your blue sweatshirt, and at first I couldn't figure out if it was you or Daddy and what you were doing. And then I wanted you to know I was awake, but I didn't want you to be sad...and then...I realized it was your money."
She paused to hiccup and breathe. "I'm sad because I wanted there to be fairies in our house. Instead, it's a mom. But I'd rather have a mom than fairies in my house."
She cried some more, and I did too.
"Do you believe in fairies?" I asked. She shrugged. "Because, you know, some things just can't be real to us in any other way than by our believing in them."
"I promise I won't tell Little Sis," she offered with conviction.
"Okay, honey. You know, now you get to be a part of the magic, kind of like being in a special club," I whispered.
Her eyes grew wide and she smiled.
"Does Cousin Katie know?" she asked about our twenty-three-year-old niece.
"I don't know...it's not something you talk about a lot, just in case."
"Are most parents part of the magic?"
"I think so," I nodded.
I asked her why she thought I spent time helping her and her friends build fairy houses, and going on fairy hunts and working in the fairy garden (things I hoped desperately we'd still be able to do with enthusiasm).
"Because you want me to believe?" she guessed.
"Because I want to believe."
She wiped her tears, and went out to the living room to break the news to her dad before returning to bed.
He came in soon after to console me.
This morning he called to tell me that the first thing Big Sis did when she woke up was show her Little Sis: "Look what the Tooth Fairy brought me!"