The ToothFairy Visits the Tibetan Plateau

IMG_4542Summer drifts into fall with a final burst of purple on the plateau. Wild gerbera, thistle, garlic, lavender and mint are just a few plants bidding summer a colorful farewell. On sunny days dry spikes of grass hamper walks. On wet days the long grass dampens my beige boots brown. Today, Norzin has decided to join me on my evening walk.

 

“Anything could be living in the tall grass,” I say waving my hands out over the plateau. Norzin crouches down and takes off her shoe. She starts carefully removing the stiff spikes of grass from her socks.

 

“Do you think the tooth fairy lives here?” she asks, not looking up. Norzin lost her lower front tooth a few days ago. She pulls out a spike and tosses it aside.

 

I shrug. “It’s possible. Although I think she would probably prefer to live in a tree. Wouldn’t you?”

* * *

 

“Ama, this time I am really going to pull it out,” she exclaims. I look up from my book, there is blood gushing out of her mouth. She’s pulling at her lower lip with one hand and wiggling the tooth with the other.

 

“Can you do it Ama? Pull it out?” She makes a yanking motion with her hand. I take a deep breath and get up to tug at the tooth. It slips into my hand. My other hand darts out for a tissue and the blood is wiped up.

 

“Ama! What should we do with it?” Norzin asks expectantly, her eyes wide and gleaming.

 

“I don’t know,” I say, examining the tiny tooth in my palm. Another milestone in my daughter’s life.
“I know,” she shouts jumping up and down. “Let’s smash it into a million pieces and throw it in the air. I will always have beautiful teeth if we do that! Ama Mako (Grandma) told me that.”

 

“Let’s go then – the roof maybe?”

Norzin nods happily and jumps up pulling my hand. My book falls to the floor as we run out of the room.

 

“I’ll smash it,” I say placing it carefully on the edge of the roof.

 

“No, I’ll do it,” Norzin insists and there is a scuffle as she grabs for her tooth.

 

“Fine,” I say. “Good luck getting it into a million pieces,” I mumble as she cracks the tooth in two and one piece rolls onto the veranda.

 

She aims at the second piece just as a wind picks up. “Here goes!” She smashes it and then flings the tooth into the garden below. My daughter is not one for patience. She watches it drop to the ground, not exactly in a million pieces, and looks satisfied. The deed is done.

 

* * *

“What! You didn’t leave it for the tooth fairy?” asks Bill Johnson, Norlha’s visiting, six-foot-eight basketball coach. Norzin’s face scrunches up.

 

“Tooth fairy?” she asks.

 

“We smashed it up and dropped it to the wind,” I mumble, scrolling through pictures on my computer.

 

“Wow! That’s pretty intense,” Bill laughs. He begins to tell Norzin about the tooth fairy and money. Norzin rushes out of the room and soon returns having recovered half her broken tooth.

 

“How much do you think the tooth fairy will give for half a tooth?” she asks.

“I don’t think it’s the size of the tooth but rather how good you’ve been,” I explain.

 

“I think I’ve been very good.”

 

“Sure,” I mumble sarcastically, with a click at my laptop.

 

That night I rummage through my wallet. There’s only a 50 yuan note. It’s Norzin’s lucky day. I scribble a note on being good and leave it with the money, forgetting to take the tooth.

 

“Ama, Ama!” I wake up to Norzin bouncing over me, followed closely by Baby D. They’re looking at me expectantly. Norzin is waving the note that the tooth fairy left.

 

“It’s very strange, she didn’t take the tooth. What do you think that means?”

 

I throw the pillow over my head and mumble, “How should I know?”

 

Norzin shakes me again. “She knows my name! Look!” She points at the note and slowly starts perusing it. “She sent me a note, gave me big money, but didn’t take the tooth. I wonder what it means?” She ponders this for a while. “I think she wants me to find a better tooth,” she concludes.

I finally give up on any extra minutes of sleep and stretch. “Maybe she’ll come back for it tonight,” I offer.

 

Later that morning I hear Norzin’s voice in the hallway. She is talking to Baby D’s sixty-year-old sitter, Acha Tsering. “It’s a pretty good and easy way to make money,” Norzin says. “Especially at your age when you start loosing a lot of teeth. Can you open your mouth?” Acha Tsering obliges. Baby D opens her mouth wide too. “Not you,” Norzin snaps shoving Baby D aside. “Are those real? Are you almost loosing any of them?” she asks waving her hands over Acha Tsering’s mouth.

 

“I think I might be loosing a couple soon,” she says to Norzin, closing her mouth. “Why?”

 

“Well, just give them to me and I’ll give them to this woman called the tooth fairy.” Norzin waves her hand dismissively. “You won’t know about her but I have a special relationship with her. She even knows my name and writes me notes!” She fumbles in her bag and pulls out the note. “Look! That right there is my name.” She rummages again and pulls out the 50 yuan note. “And this is how much she gave me for half a tooth! Your teeth are pretty big. I bet she’ll give even more for them.”

 

Now Acha Tsering is playing along. “But you’ll give the money to me right?”

 

Norzin considers this for a while. “We can split it,” she suggests. “And there are plenty of old people around, we can just ask for their teeth as they fall out. We don’t have to tell them about the tooth fairy.”

 

“Norzin!” I shout, interrupting her little business scheme.

 

“Yes, Ama,” she answers sweetly.

 

“The tooth fairy only wants baby teeth not old people’s teeth!”

Norzin’s face falls as she reflects on this. “How many more of my teeth will fall out?” She opens her mouth and starts counting.