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My Love Affair with the Tooth Fairy

Published in ChicagoNow, May 2, 2018

My parents had a remarkable system for the tooth fairy. Each time my brothers and I lost a tooth, we would find a silver dollar under our pillow. That was pretty generous for the baby boomer era, when the going rate averaged .69 cents per tooth and kids we knew usually received a quarter.

But there was a catch. My parents always collected the silver dollar for safe keeping and I don’t recall ever spending the equivalent amount on anything. It was a clever scam leading me to become a tooth fairy skeptic at a very young age.

According to a survey published by Mike Brown, I gave my kids a bit less than the going average rate of $1.39 per tooth that their Gen X peers received. At least I gave them an actual dollar they could spend, plus a bonus for that first tooth. My grandkids’ generation receives an average of $3.25, so I guess my shock over the tooth fairy leaving $5 for that first tooth was unwarranted.

Here’s an interesting factoid. When inflation is accounted for, the average amount of money my generation received for a lost tooth would be almost $6. If I had actually received that dollar, I could have found something I liked at Target, except there were no stores like Target back then. So, I guess that money would have been added to my piggy bank along with the dollar per hour I received for babysitting. But at least the tooth fairy magic would have been part of my life.

Times may have changed, but there is nothing I love more than those photos of my kids and grandkids missing their two front teeth. When one of my daughters lost hers just before school picture day, I worried I would never want a record of that toothless grin. Today, I treasure that photo.

For some strange reason, I kept one of my kids’ baby teeth in a small jar until I unearthed them cleaning out a drawer last year. None of my kids wanted to claim those teeth, informing me that saving them for so long was rather gross. So, after so many years, I tossed them. But those memories of sneaking into their rooms to slip tooth fairy money under their pillows is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. It was important to be sure they were soundly asleep so they continued to believe in the tooth fairy.

Now my grandkids have special, fancy tooth pillows, but the excitement of finding tangible evidence that the tooth fairy replaced that baby tooth with money is the same. And I treasure all of their sweet, toothless photos.


by Laurie Levy
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