Watching the earth slowly pass away gives me mixed feelings. I'm eager for change, but I kind of feel like I need to be paying my respects. Fortunately fall is a spectacle so reverence turns to celebration, which I can get behind.
The other day Julian sat across the table from me and said this:
"Mom, now tell the truth: Is the tooth fairy not real? And instead it's YOU who leaves the money?"
I stared at him with thoughts of, hey, he's got to know sometime. Is now the time? Is 8 old enough? too old? Also thinking that belief in the tooth fairy nowhere compares to that of Santa Claus (one that is still mightily held to, I might add) I mean, it's just the tooth fairy, right? I replied, "do you REALLY want to know?"
He responded, "Yes, I do."
Me, still hesitating, "Well then yes. It is."
I sat staring at him and just for a split second-- if I'd blinked i'd have missed it-- I saw his face fall, and I realized that both of us reluctantly stood at the precipice of uncertain desires. Did he really want to know? Did I really want to tell him? Even if he did sincerely want to know the truth, ought I give it to him? Or should I wait? Unwilling to accept, he asked again,
"Really? Are you for real? Tell the TRUTH."
Me, again, "do you REALLY want to know? For real?"
He said again, the tiiiniest fraction less sure, "Yes, I really do."
And I said again, "Then yes, it's true."
And I saw that look again, an internal debate of whether or not he was prepared to reconcile this information with the things he knew and held to deep inside. Yet again, he questioned,
"C'mon, Mom. Is it true? Is it really not real?"
Not sure I had it in me to go it a third time I quietly asked again, "Julian, are you sure you want to know?"
And he quietly replied, "No, I guess I don't."
And my heart broke a little bit and I wanted to take back any notion of thought I'd ever had about growing up and facing reality or speaking plainly or anything of the kind. As I sat surveying the situation, watching him clinging still to childhood I asked myself, but for how long. Finally I decided to say to him, "I've never seen the tooth fairy, have you?" He said he hadn't. I said, "But it doesn't mean the tooth fairy isn't real. Right?" He agreed.
I feel like kids and parents eventually reach this "don't ask don't tell" point in their relationship. That maybe there's this in-between phase where maybe they no longer quite believe in a weird little fairy that collects children's teeth (ew, why is this a thing), but they believe in something. Something not quite equating their hope that their mom or dad will remember to dig up some change for them. I'm remembering how my sister, who's the youngest, would tell my mom she'd lost a tooth and my mom saying, "ok, go find some change in my purse." Something tells me that's not quite the same, so no wonder they cling. They and us.
And that's where we left it. One last breath of hope hanging in the air, his childhood hung
in the balance, perched precariously at the edge of a cliff but for how long? At this point, who knows what one good gust might do.
p.s. I was looking through his first grade binder where I kept all the jewels from the year and found this, with my commentary at the bottom: