"I believe in God like I believe in the tooth fairy" That is what somebody said recently and this made me think about the silly stories we tell children. In my family, it wasn't a fairy that rewarded a child for losing a tooth, but a mouse. I'm afraid that our house-mice were rather unreliable tooth collectors and often forgot to exchange them for sixpences(the going rate then). Four children, very close in age lost teeth so frequently. My kids soon lost faith in the ritual of placing a tooth in a shoe under the bed. I wasn't sorry. Although this kind of thing was expected of parents, I never really liked telling lies to my children, even lies as white as those about mice and teeth or about Father Christmas. I know that as a child I was relieved to find that it was my dear kind Dad that put presents by my bed on Christmas eve and not a scary old man who climbed down chimneys like a burglar. I didn't mind mice, I thought them harmless and rather cute, but I never liked fairies. They were too much like mosquitoes. I was determined not to believe in them. I am glad I was never introduced to the idea of a tooth fairy. A mouse exchanging money for a tooth was much easier to believe in. My children had all seen mice. Infestations of rodents were common in houses in Zambia. One could understand a mouse liking a tooth to gnaw on like a dog gnaws on a bone, but what would a fairy want with a tooth?
Where did the idea of a tooth fairy come from? Is it an American invention? Did they arise spontaneously there or were they brought over the Atlantic from one or other Old Country. (something for me to Google?) For that matter where does the idea of fairies come from? The fairy story is a very old tradition in Europe, but what gave rise to it? I know that there are people who are sure they exist and swear that they have seen them. Ruby Reeves, an artist who lived near us in George had fairies living in her garden. She would visit them and talk to them often. She wrote about them and painted many beautiful pictures of them. My daughter, Dorothy, said she had also seen them there when she and a friend went to Ruby's house. But my daughter was schizophrenic and suffered from other delusions too.
I can't remember if I ever told my grandson about the tooth mouse. I am sure I didn't ever mention fairies. But I suppose even such a sceptical child as he, believed in Santa Claus too when he was very young or at least pretended to. For all my children, the belief in this unsavoury old guy died out early, but the custom of hanging up stockings lasted until late adolescence. Why don't we all do that? Keep the Christmas stockings and leave Santa out of it. Isn't it better for children to know that what we tell them is true, or at least as close to truth as we are able to get.