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Jewish World Review August 9, 2001 / 20 Menachem-Av, 5761

Bill Tammeus

Bill Tammeus
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Visited while asleep by gang of magical mischief makers -- CHILD psychologists continue to ponder how, whether and when to tell children that some of what they believe in (Santa, imaginary friends, the innate fairness of the world) is simply fantasy.

But as I get older, it's easier to see why children believe in the Tooth Fairy. How else to explain the strange things that happen to us in our sleep?

To kids, it's perfectly logical that a mystical creature in magic slippers and a tutu would slip into their room at night and exchange a tooth for some money. (Notice I say "some money," because I'm most of 20 years past having to know how much the Tooth Fairy should leave.

The dime I got as a kid had become a quarter by the 1970s, when my kids were small, and now probably is up to convertible stock options in an IPO, whatever that means.)

Adults, of course, are far too sophisticated to believe in the Tooth Fairy. But I think it's a concept we discard at our peril because the essential modus operandi (that's Latin for modus operandi) of the Tooth Fairy is exactly what we need to explain what happens to adults in the mysterious overnight hours.

For instance, when you awaken each day, you find that you've been secretly visited by the Breath Fairy. The Breath Fairy carries two spray cans to use on our unsuspecting mouths. One is full of atomized sawdust. The other is full of the fragrance of Limburger cheese. The Breath Fairy never misses a night.

Just before the Breath Fairy arrives, however, the Wrinkle Fairy sneaks in. The Wrinkle Fairy's job is to put unsightly creases on our faces, arms and chests. The Wrinkle Fairy isn't as dependable as the Breath Fairy, but sometimes the wrinkles she produces are simply awesome. I recall waking up one morning to discover on my chest a detailed map of Asia Minor at the time of the First Crusade. A heavy crease stretched from Constantinople to Antioch to show the Crusaders' route. That and the tourist map of Disney World I once found on my stomach represent the Wrinkle Fairy's finest work.

I think I most dread the visits from the Hair Fairy. What a devilish, disruptive being the Hair Fairy is. My guess is that somewhere in the recesses of mythological history, the Hair Fairy had a terribly unhappy childhood.

That's the only way I can explain the tangled, matted mess she makes of my hair by the end of each night. This evil work must take several furious hours to complete.

Of all the nightly visitors, I think I most resent the Bladder Fairy. I know people who say the Bladder Fairy visits them two, three or four times a night, forcing them to arise and return things to normal. It's not so bad that the Bladder Fairy wanders around filling us up. What's bad is that she then wakes us up so we'll notice and have to do something about it.

The Dream Fairy, though clearly suffering from dementia, at least usually lets us sleep through the dreams she downloads into our heads.

The Dream Fairy entertains our subconscious and then slips away - often taking her surreal theater with her so we can't recall its profound bizarreness. Which is unlike the Nightmare Fairy, who makes sure we wake up at the scariest times so we'll remember her (his?) sadistic work.

I haven't even mentioned the most destructive of all - the Aging Fairy. She puts aches in our knees and works with the Hair Fairy to make us grayer.

The Aging Fairy each night makes me look more and more like my father. It's dastardly work, this.

And what's worst of all is that the Breath, Wrinkle, Hair, Bladder and Aging Fairies never leave us so much as a nickel in compensation.

That's the part that convinces me they're all real.

Comment on JWR contributor Bill Tammeus' column by clicking here.

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Reprinted by permission, The Kansas City Star, Copyright 2001. All rights reserved