We didn’t believe in the Easter Bunny growing up. Never even considered it. Santa Claus was an impossible myth for my parents to perpetuate with all of our older, wiser friends. But the tooth fairy? She was practically a member of the family.
My mother had created an entire background story and personality for our dear fairy. Her name was Maxine and she lived on Staten Island. Since we lived in Connecticut, Maxine took the Staten Island Ferry to reach our house which explained why she always arrived so late at night. Those of us lucky enough to loose a tooth would sometimes hear her in the hall outside our bedroom, pleading with my mother to not have to come in. Maxine was shy and didn’t want to bother us poor children. We’d hear her obnoxious New York accent and my mom’s polished English going back and forth until finally my mother would relent and sneak into our rooms to retrieve the tooth for her.
I adored Maxine’s emotional visits. We hardly ever got “real” New Yorkers in our home and she was one of my main connections to the nearby city. I was young and rarely went with my older siblings on their occasional visits. Maxine brought the glamorous city to me. From what I overheard in her conversations with my mother, she was just as insecure and shy as I was. Whether or not she knew it, I’d grown to love her.
I’ve saved a few of the letters from Maxine. Although she was too shy to come face to face with me, she’d often send my mother in to my room with a simple note of appreciation for supplying her with my pearly teeth. So what if the letters were in my mother’s handwriting, I loved these notes from our late night Fairy and was sad that I didn’t have more teeth to give. They seemed to make her so happy and I got the feeling that teeth were her life. I gave what I could.
Even when I got older and became wise to the world, I couldn’t give up my faith in Maxine. She was someone I wanted to have a real relationship with. I wanted to visit her home on The Island, relax on her cheap, yellow couch, sip Seven Up and chat about the Mets. Look through her picture books at the places she’d been and the losers she’d dated. I would never have this kind of relationship with someone like Santa Claus. He was so old, so busy. But Maxine, she was the friend I never had who I couldn’t bear to lose.
I’m looking forward to when my kids start loosing their teeth. Even though Maxine was never brave enough to come in my room to retrieve my teeth, I’m sure I’ll recognize her. She’ll be the one that smells like the Hudson river, has windblown hair, an over-the-top accent and a bag full of silver dollars. And despite all the years to get over her shyness, I bet she’ll make me do her dirty work for her. And I’ll be happy to do it. Anything for an old friend.
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