Once upon a time there was a little blond girl named Sydney. Sydney could be a boy’s name too. It’s also the capital of Australia, but this was a little blond second grade girl named Sydney. One day Sydney said to me, “I have a woos toof. See my toof is wiggawee!”
On this particular day Sydney’s class had PE. P.E. stands for Physical Education. Usually a P makes a Puh sound, but when it’s PH it says Fuh. Physical Education happens in the gym. It’s when they try to teach kids how to use their bodies better. Second graders have lots of energy and can run and jump and throw balls but they don’t always have great coordination and they sometimes run into each other or the walls or they jump on each other’s toes or fingers or they throw the balls into each other’s faces. The gym is a hard place, and the balls are hard and it’s possible to lose a toof when someone runs into you or throws a ball in your face. Even a toof that is not wiggawee.
Sydney lost her toof for the first time in PE that day. It wasn’t because she ran into someone or the wall or got hit in the face with a ball. She was just sitting there waiting for instructions and wiggawing her toof back and forth until it fell out. So of course she had to show it off to her classmates. Everyone knows a toof is valuable. The toof fairy comes and gives you something for it late at night. What the toof fairy gives you varies from house to house. The exchange rate is never constant. At some houses she brings a nickel. At other houses she brings a dollar or more. No one knows what she’ll bring but everybody knows a toof is valuable.
Her classmates were naturally interested and everyone kept saying, “I wanna see!” so she kept holding out her hand with the little bloody toof so her neighbors could look.
Until the teacher saw the disturbance and said, “Get that thing out of here. Take it to the office!” Sydney was a good girl, so she went.
Now in kindergarten and 1st grade they give out little plastic lockets shaped like a toof to wear around your neck all day. You get to shake the big toof all day and the little toof will rattle around inside so you know where it’s at. Plus you get to do neat tricks with the hole in your head. You can stick a straw through the hole as you drink your milk. You can stick your tongue out of the hole at people. You can make a funny whistling sound.
But in second grade they think you’re old enough to handle this in another more mature way. They gave her an envelope. The office lady sealed up the envelope with the toof inside and handed it back to Sydney. You’re supposed to give this to your people and have your people give it to the toof fairy’s people and make the exchange in the middle of the night. “Put this in your backpack and don’t take it out until you get home,” the office lady told her.
And Sydney was a good girl and did as she was told… until the end of school. After the last bell rang and the kids gathered their belongings and headed for their rides, Sydney thought, “I want to look at my valuable toof. School’s technically over, and it’s my toof after all.” So she took the envelope out of her backpack as she was leaving the classroom. She could feel the bump of the envelope, but she really wanted to look at it and admire her valuable treasure. So she took her fingernail and tried to scratch a window in the envelope.
You cannot scratch a window in an envelope. You can scratch a door though, so that’s what she did. And out of that little door the toof made a break for it, and the next thing she knew she had lost her toof again.
Then, in tears, she found me. “I lost my toof!”
“You lost another tooth?” I asked.
“No, the same one!” she wailed.
“You lost the same tooth twice in one day?!”
“Well, where were you?”
“I don’t know!”
That was Sydney’s second mistake. When you have something in your hand and suddenly it’s not there you should STAND STILL. Pick up your feet and check under there. Gravity works in a straight line from outer space down to the center of the earth, and falling things go straight down. They’re usually closer than you think. A super ball might bounce and roll away, but a toof is not very bouncy and not very round, and it will come to a stop pretty quickly.
She had started to wander around aimlessly. She had left the tiled area and moved to a carpeted area. If you’re in a tiled area you look over one square at a time until you find the missing object. Look in the tile you’re standing in. Look at the tile in front of you. Look at the one to the right and then left and then behind and gradually expand your search to the surrounding tiles. Now unfortunately, these tiles were not all one color and that makes it harder. They were mostly white but had little flecks of other colors. If they had been all white it would have been the little bloody end piece to look for. It would show up like the setting sun in a clear sky.
Sydney had left the tile area and moved to the carpeted area, and unfortunately the carpet was not all one color either. It was blue with little flecks of color. If it had been all blue, the toof would have shown up clearly like the moon reflected on the evening sea.
Sydney was in a panic, and time was wasting. She needed to catch her bus for home. She begged me to go tell her teacher, Miss Lilly, to hold the bus until she recovered the tooth. I ran to the gym where all the kids waited to board their bus.
“Sydney lost her tooth, Miss Lilly,” I sputtered, “Can you hold her bus?”
“She lost another tooth?” she asked, amazed.
“No, the same one!”
“She lost the same tooth twice in one day?”
“Well, we can’t hold her bus. Tell her to come and we’ll keep the tooth if we find it.”
Sydney was not happy with the instructions, but she was a good girl and hung her head as she started to leave.”
Just then I thought of someone who could help. “Let’s ask Janitor Dave. He’s got a big broom, and he’ll sweep back and forth until there’s a big pile of dust and dirt and your tooth will show up easily. It’ll look like the snow camp on top of Mount Rainier and we can pick the tooth up from the pile!”
Sydney looked hopeful and went to catch her bus.
I told Janitor Dave, “Sydney lost her tooth, could you sweep very carefully in Miss Lilly’s room and keep the tooth if you find it?”
“She lost another tooth?” he asked, amazed.
“No, the same one!”
“She lost the same tooth twice in one day?”
And then I went home.
The next day, Sydney was sitting at a computer desk taking a reading test, and I asked if the tooth had shown up.
“No,” she said dejectedly.
Just then Janitor Dave walked in. “Hey, did you find her tooth?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “and I vacuumed real slow.”
Oh, dear. Everyone knows that it’s very easy to accidentally suck up small valuable objects when vacuuming. It could be a pearl earring or a favorite Lego that suddenly goes rattling up the pipe, and no one wants to open up the vacuum cleaner bag and fish around in there. There could be all kinds of gross things or a barely dead spider. If it’s not your tooth and plus you don’t even know the exchange rate so can’t expect a reward it’s not going to be worth it.
“But,” Janitor Dave continued, “There’s some areas between the desk legs and the chair legs I can’t reach.” He pointed to the floor under Sydney’s computer to indicate.
We looked down there and saw something. “Hey, look!” I said.
No, it wasn’t the toof. It was a little pencil, the kind kids sharpen until there’s almost nothing left but an eraser and enough lead to write. It did look a little like a tooth, but an adult tooth, the pointy party being the root.
“Do you want this as your prize instead of a nickel or whatever?”
“Nah,” said Sydney said, disappointed yet again.
So I kept it as a souvenir, and I wrote this story down with that pencil because sometimes when you lose something the story you get can become more valuable than what you’ve lost.
Actually, that last bit isn’t technically true. I used a computer to write this story down. I kept the pencil for a while, but I’ve told the story over and over from memory as the years passed. I lost the pencil just like she lost her tooth, but I always knew where the story was hidden. Every time a kid says they have a wiggawee toof I smile and say, “That reminds me of the Tale of the Twice Lost Tooth.