Tooth Fairy Secretary

When I was growing up, my father and his father, my thatha, were major sources of hilarity and heartburn in our house. If your sibling was the target of their comments, you laughed loud and clear. If *you* were, you glared at everyone else, and wished a cyclone would hit your far-away-from-the-coastline city and swallow just your two annoying siblings.

Ceiling fan usage was a big issue for my dad. He had this theory that if you opened the front and back doors to the house, you’d generate enough of a vortex for the home to be naturally cool.

Circulation. Simple physics. It made theoretical sense, except we lived on an upper story of a building in a relatively land locked city, and no matter how hard you tried, you didn’t feel the breeze. He also did this early in the morning, which had the double effect of waking us up and saving on ceiling fan use.

If you complained too much, my father had his standard line: Periya England-la porandhu valandhaya? Po, London-ku poyi fan pottuko. Roughly: Who do you think you are? Someone born and brought up in England? Go live in London and put the fan on all you want. I grew up thinking of Englanders as these posh people who sat down for tea and ate suppers (thanks, Enid Blyton) and had massive ceiling fans everywhere (thanks, daddy!)

It wasn’t obvious to me then, but it’s clearer now — the source of this Natural Air Circulation business was none other than my thatha, my dad’s dad, who used to live with us. He was another Natural Air fanatic. Except he fed his fixation at 3 pm in the afternoon. In peak Indian summer. When there was a nasty summer loo raging outside. That was when he threw open all the doors and windows in the house to let the air circulate.

The two of them argued constantly — if my thatha said Gandhi was a saint, my father said, “Master manipulator! Crook of the first order!” My father said bathing in ice cold water in the middle of winter was good for building character. My thatha (you guessed it!) had my mother boil a bucket of hot water just for himself, even in 110F summer, and frolicked around in the bathroom like a baby buffalo in a muddy pond.

When you think about all this, you wonder how you’re sane.

Which is another way of confessing I’m a special shade of cuckoo and I’m bringing up the next generation of crazy.

My kids have been brought up to believe I’ll return them to Walmart and ask for a full refund. If they complain about a scratch on the knee or a hurting arm, I’ll say lets get you to the ER and let the nurses give you some shots. If the complaints are accompanied by loud tears, I’ll say, “Come on, let’s go to the ER, and get it chopped off.”

Which is almost always guaranteed to shut the tear factory. Try it at home and tell me.

Maybe I’m consigning them to a life of therapist visits. In the meanwhile, I can see both of them develop a quirky sense of humor.

The last time Annika lost a tooth, she kept asking if the tooth fairy was real. Here I am, trying to keep a straight face and wondering if today’s the day my little Annika will have her innocence shattered. Meanwhile Megha’s begging me, in full view of her sister, to let her tell Annika the truth.

Finally I give in. Better for her to know the truth from her sister than hear it outside.

Megha starts solemnly, “Annika, it’s time to tell you the truth. The tooth fairy is not real, because — ”

“Because what?”

“Because I AM THE TOOTH FAIRY!!!!”

Annika goes into a complete tizzy. “Show me how you fly!”

Her older sister flaps her arms, and tries to do ballet style jumps through the air.

“Where do you store your wings?”

Megha gives random, semi-convincing answers to all of Annika’s questions. It’s hilarious listening to them.

Finally, she extracts a promise. “Do you promise not to tell anyone, especially Clara?”

“Yes! Yes! I promise.”

And who could say no to this irresistible offer? “Well, I’m going to continue being the Tooth Fairy and you can be the Tooth Fairy Secretary!!!”

Too good to miss, of course. Annika signed up immediately.

The last I heard of that, was the two of them practicing their kung fu moves. Apparently the biggest occupational hazard of being a tooth fairy/secretary was having your wings ripped off by greedy children who can’t be satisfied with the $1 the Tooth Fairy leaves them.

I look at the two of them and think my family’s Crazy genes are definitely not recessive.

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