Whenever I ponder why I am so drawn to writing this Studio Journal, it always comes back to: I write to understand, to reflect, to connect. The Desert Island Necessaries in my artmaking include both the doing of it and the writing about that doing, because the writing takes flights that illuminate the making. All else – especially that tedious biz end – can go hang, really. Validation of the power of a purposeful collection of writing was highlighted by a mostly-forgotten book we happened across in the attic last weekend: The Tooth Fairy correspondence belonging to my oldest son, Roger. It affirms that writing is more than just the words and ideas. Tucked in there is also a world view, original evidence of what was important once upon a time. I hope my Studio Journal does that now and in the future for each of us in some way.
Roger’s Tooth Fairy Book was written and thickly illustrated, starting with his first bottom tooth on April 21, 1991 until twelve teeth later on July 25, 1995, when the magic morphed. I’d like to quote at length from that correspondence, formed first in his youthful random caps printing, then in tentative cursive, and then back to printing. While I, in mysterious TF persona, wrote with my non-dominant hand – my brain crying out in protest the while – so he would not recognize my printing. Even if it’s a tad tangential to my usual posts, this is also a hoot – with original spellings – and we all could use that. Let’s start in.
TOOTH FAIRY (Intent on making friends and promoting healthy habits) April 21, 1991 Dear Roger, Losing your very first tooth is a special thing. You body is changing into a grown-up even now. It’s very important to take care of your teeth and gums so that they’ll last until you’re at least 158 years old! The next time you lose a tooth you can use this special book to write back to me. I’d love to hear your own ideas. You’re such a wonderfully smart, helpful and caring person. I’m glad I’m getting to know you now. Much love, The Tooth Fairy.
ROGER (Full of practical questions) August 21, 1991 Dear Tooth Fairy, I slept over at Sarah’s. I took my tooth out that was wiggly on August 21, 1991. How big are you? How do you get under my pillow without waking me up? Love, Roger
TF (Still promoting and avoiding a lie) August 21, 1991 Dear Roger, So you finally lost another bottom tooth! I’m excited because I’ve been waiting quite awhile to hear from you – I don’t write to every kid, so I’m very pleased to get to when I can. Keep up the good brushing job you’ve been doing – I like to get teeth with no cavities or fillings! You asked me some pretty important questions – so here are the answers: Since I’m not real, like you are, it’s hard to say how big I am. I guess I would say I’m as big as love, if that makes any sense. And the reason I can get under your pillow without waking you up is that I’m very quiet and careful and you stay asleep (you’re a sound sleeper anyway) I look forward to the next time you write me. Love, The Tooth Fairy. P.S. Thanks for the picture of me on the envelope.
R (Lots more questions) April 5, 1992 Dear Tooth Fairy, Will you please give me back my box? Where do you keep all the teeth? I’m going to soccer camp and it is 5 days long. Will you give me another book when this one is full? How do you not make a sound? Love, Roger
TF (More straight talk) April 5, 1992 Dear Roger, Wow! Thanks for the gumball. It was a special surprise. I thought your tooth box was great, so I put the money in it too! I have a special place for each kid that I keep their teeth in. It’s different for each one. It’s not like the North Pole or anything. Actually, I do make a little noise. I can’t help it. Tonight your gumball rattled a little. But mostly I try to be silent, to not wake you up…When this book is full and you still have some baby teeth to lose and you still want to write to me, of course I will give you another book!…Go ahead and wiggle on some more loose teeth so I can hear from you again soon! Love, The Tooth Fairy
R (A little worried?) April 13, 1992 Dear Tooth Fairy, I went to soccer camp today. When my tooth fell out Austin was here and I did it all by myself. Will my teeth fall out all at the same time? Love, Roger
TF (Reassuring) April 13, 1992 Dearest Roger, My goodness, that was a short time from losing your last tooth to this one today! Only 8 days. You must be getting good at wiggling your teeth and getting them to come out – especially since you did this big front tooth with only your fingers. Mother Nature usually doesn’t let more than a few teeth come out at the same time – so I don’t think you will lose all of yours at once. But I think you probably have a cute grin with two teeth out right now…Love, The Tooth Fairy
R (His experience makes TF a bit of a liar) April 17, 1992 Dear Tooth Fairy, I dyed Easter eggs tonight. I got hit in the face with the soccer ball at soccer camp and it made my other top front tooth loose. It hurt and I cried a little. Love, Roger
TF (Skills strained) April 17, 1992 Hello Again Roger, I’m amazed to hear from you so soon! Then I read about your getting hit with the soccer ball and I knew that your tooth had some extra help to come out. I hope you felt OK soon after that and the rest of camp was fun. Anyway, whenever another tooth comes out in less that 7 days, I have a little extra to give…Love, The Tooth Fairy
R (Hapless and random) September 29, 1992 Dear Tooth Fairy, When I took my tooth out, I wiggled it alot. It fell on the floor. I lost it before bedtime. I am in the second grade. My principal is Mr. Baker. How do you move around? Love, Roger
TF (Momming real hard) September 29, 1992 Dear Roger, Hello again! I’m always glad to come to your house to see what you have written to me! You must have wiggled your tooth a lot of times to get it to come out. I’m glad you finally found it on the floor!…Because I’m made of love, I move anywhere I want with a different kind of energy than bones and muscles have. The closest thing I can say it’s like is like thoughts. You can’t see them or touch them, but they are powerful, right? Hope that’s clear – you do ask some good questions!…Love The Tooth Fairy
R (Written in cursive and illustrated with a drawing of baseball players!) 1-20-93 dear tooth fairy, i like it when I lose a tooth. I like it when I get a dollar under my pillow. I am learning to write cursive. I am playing baseball. where is your house? love, Roger
TF (Also in cursive, which was a bitch) 1-20-93 My Dear Roger, Were you trying to trap me? I could hardly sneak this book out of your hand!…I’m excited to hear about baseball. When do you start?… I don’t have a house for two reasons. First, I’m made out of love energy. Second, I travel around all the time, so I wouldn’t use it very much, even if I did need one. Thank you for the two blow pops – they are really great. Love, The Tooth Fairy
R (After a long time between lost teeth, written in tiny controlled printing) 5-14-95 Hi, rember me Roger Crain? I am now 9 years old and a lot of things have happend to me. I can not belive that I have not lost a tooth for two years and four months. Wow…We got rats, as in my brother and I. Max’s is brownish and blackish color and mine is black and white. she is a hooded rat. She has all black head and sort of a black line down her spine then the rest of her is all white. she is very curious, And she loves to go behind the blinds by my bed. She is very funny…The reason I do not have my tooth under my bed…when I was at my friends house I was wiggling my tooth suddly my tooth poped out and sliped out of my hand and landed on their new rug. Then we all started to look for it we looked for forty five minutes and still did not find it. So now you know why there is no tooth under my pillow. Love, Roger (In a P.S. he gives his friend’s name and address and suggests TF can find it there.)
TF (Hmmm, how to finesse this?) May 14, 1995 Dear Roger, Yippee! Of course I remember you! It’s so great to hear from you again – it really has been a long, long time – but I bet there are more teeth getting ready to come out, so it won’t be as long…It also happens that sometimes when a kid loses a tooth, he really loses it. I can’t go to Gary’s, but maybe they will find it. If not, don’t worry, I’ll leave a space in my collection anyway. I can see the space in your teeth too. It sounds like some really wonderful things are happening in your life…I’m really impressed with your writing – it is so small and neat. You’ve grown so much, too, that you practically take up the whole bed. Keep writing and reading and playing your whole life, OK? Love, The Tooth Fairy P.S. Keep a close watch on your curious rat!
R (Intent on that rat) July 25, 95 Dear tooth fairy Hi Its me again nothing really bad has happend but I did almost lose my Rat. a cupple of times. the first time I just plane left her out then when I came in I rememberd I left my rat out when I finaly found her she was under my bed. The socend time my mom was reading to us at bed time and we had our windows open. I had my rat out and she craled to the window and streached to a fearn and grabed on She allmost got her self killed! the third time I left her out agan. The evnlope and the ziplock bouth have teeth in them the tooth in the envlope is the tooth that I lost at my freinds house. Well, thats all Love, Roger Crain P.S. My Rats name is Zelda and Gary found my tooth in the closet (quite strange.) Roger Crain
TF (Sadly the last entry) Hi Roger! How wonderful that Gary found that missing tooth; now my collection (your collection) will be complete. Thanks for the new last tooth, too. You sure brush your teeth so well. Do you floss them too? Zelda seems like a very special pet in your life. She does seem especially bold and adventurous. It’s almost like she has no fear – or common sense (or both!) Still, you’re very lucky to have so much love for your animal. Not every pet gets such concern and care – and it seems like you’re getting better at watching over her. So I expect you will have her for her whole life. (He did.) Do you have any more wiggly teeth? It seems there should be a few more loose ones pretty soon, even if they are not now. I hope you’re having a fun summer, with lots of swimming, the beach, friends and fun. Hope to hear from you again real soon. Love, The Tooth Fairy.
–Liz Crain, who remembers also writing in a similar Tooth Fairy book with her second son, Max. But, as second children often do, he figured out the dynamics and concluded the exchange years earlier than his brother by writing back, “I know who you are. You are my mom.” Jig was up, but he still took the $$. 🙂