Her eyes narrowed. Her lips pursed She stared at me.
"What?", Emily said.
"I am the Tooth Fairy...and Daddy too, just like My mom was MY tooth fairy and Grandma Emily was Daddy's tooth fairy and someday you'll be your own child's tooth fairy...."
The silence in my car was killing me. I have never in ten years felt my child so angry with me. It washed over me in waves as I watched her face tighten and the tears begin. She silently turned her back on me and faced the window. With her back to me she said, "You lied to me."
"Yes", I said, "and it is all right if you are angry with me - I accept your anger, sweetie." I gripped my steering wheel. I reached out and touched her shoulder. She shrugged me off. I hesitated and put my hand back out onto the middle of her back.
I needed to touch her, to reassure her - to absolve myself somehow, to make her understand that we lied because we wanted to make the world magical for her, that all my parenting fears and dreams all collide into one jumbly mess that is the beautiful terror of being a Parent.
But I said none of those things. I merely said again, "I accept your anger with me, you have a right to be angry."
The drive to the Second Cup was silent. She opened the car door and stormed out, up the walkway. I reached down to hold her hand and she pointedly snatched it away. Her face was a thunderstorm.
"Two lime Italian Sodas, Please."
I mean - come on. There is no reason to be dehydrated in the midst of a family crisis.
Emily took hers from the counter and stormed back to the car.
She had still not gotten to the next part of the reveal. But I knew it was coming. I feared it more than the tooth fairy revelation.
I got back into the car.
"I just have to stop at the market for veggies for Coco - and the Trattoria for dinner for us, then we can head home - Ok?" I attempt to sound as if I am not on the verge of bursting into tears myself. I sound, I think to myself, like generations of mothers attempting to hold it all together. When the day is done, children and animals still have to be fed, watered and put to bed. There is no escaping the mundane.
She takes a few sips of her Italian soda. She says nothing to me.
I can feel her brain working - running the memories of the tooth fairy, reaching out, making connections....until it clicks.
For the first time, she turns to face me. She stares right at me.
"Santa?", she whispers.
I inhale. The raw hurt on her face is killing me. I have to cauterize the wound.
"Yes.....me.", I say.
More Silence. This time deeper and darker than before. We are both being sucked into it.
"I don't feel good", says Emily.
"I know honey - this is alot of information for you to take in. We'll be home after I make these two stops."
"No", she says, "I Don't feel good." Pause. "I think I am going to throw up..."
As she vomits -heartily - in my car.
And I deserved it, really.
That seemed to even the score in her mind. I was forgiven shortly afterwards as I held her in my arms and answered her stream of questions:
Would I still be her Santa? Could she still put out wine and cookies for Santa? Would I still take her teeth when they fell out?
Yes, Yes and More Yes.
Nothing about those things have changed, I explained - except that she knows it is Mom and Dad who are guarding the magical gate.