Growing up, we had a nanny of sorts who babysat us often and stayed overnight when my mother worked the night shift. Her name was Monette. She was in college at the time, and now looking back as an adult, I can see the many ways in which she could have acted like a college student and ruined our childhood. But, she was an amazing nanny and cared for us as if we were her own. And to this end, one particular memory stands out in my mind that still awes me today.
My tooth fell out after school. I was older, maybe 11 or 12, so I was right on the cusp of not believing in the tooth fairy. My heart really wanted to believe. My tender childlike spirit had been beaten down and crushed so many times up to this point that it seemed ridiculous to me to even want to place any faith in a money toting fairy in search of pearly whites. But, there was still that little part of me, that tiny corner of my heart that held the slightest flame of hope. I think that Monette knew this. If I remember correctly, I even think I questioned how the “tooth fairy” would come since my mom was at work and she agreed (and showed me her empty wallet to prove a point) that she certainly had no money to pay for teeth.
The next morning I woke up to fresh folded bills under my pillow and my tooth gone. To this day, I have no idea how she pulled it off. Did someone bring her the money? Did my mom have a stash of cash hidden somewhere? Did the tooth fairy actually exist?
What I do know, is in that moment, Monette had a choice – keep the childhood magic alive or allow life’s reality to take over. I don’t know how she did, not do I need to know, but in that moment, she kept the childhood magic alive for just a little longer. She kept the small flame of hope burning. And that flame of hope was about more than just the tooth fairy. It was about hope and faith and trust. It was a pivotal moment of believing in the wonder of things, even if they seem completely absurd and holding on to hope that magic can, and will, happen.
As I navigate through my adult life in a grown up world with problems far larger than whether or not the tooth fairy will actually show up, I remember that moment of waking up to find my tooth gone and money tucked into its place under my pillow. I remember feeling in awe and felt as if I had been let in on a magical secret – Hope is alive and well. When I look around at my life today, I draw from that memory. Hope is alive and well.
And in my adult experience and wisdom, I know that Monette had a choice to preserve that hope or crush it. As I deal with my own children and all those I come in contact with, I guard that truth so carefully. Hope can be a fragile flame. Like Monette, I choose to foster it and protect it because I know from first hand experience what a huge difference it can make in someone’s life. And I am forever grateful.