The Tooth Fairy doesn’t come to our house. Not because of any deep seated anti-Tooth Fairy angst. I'm just a tradition rebel. When each child looses his first tooth, we leave the rest of the pack at home and take the newly toothless one out for ice cream. This was easily accomplished when all of the children were young and the ice cream parlor was ten minutes away.
We realized this simple tradition had become more complicated when Claire’s first tooth came out in my palm. The big guys don’t need a baby sitter. The little ones do. Kid combinations are such that we can’t leave them all home alone without outside supervision. Add in the drive time to and from the nearest soft serve establishment and we’re looking at three hours. Just for a quick trip to get ice cream! What to do?
“I know, Mama! We can drive to the grocery store and get ice cream and eat it in the car!”
“I don’t know. The thought of eating cold ice cream in the car in a hurry in January isn’t my idea of a date, Claire. I think we can come up with something better. How ‘bout we just make homemade ice cream? It’s healthier anyway.” Claire looked doubtful.
We have been playing restaurant during meal times in order to teach the children the proper way to serve. “Don’t slam the dishes on the table... Don’t reach across one person to serve another...Walk around and serve each person from the side...Ask them if they are done before rushing their plates from the table...” We’ve come a long way in a few short weeks. All the kids fight for this job because of the tip at the end of the meal.
“Claire, how ‘bout this.You can get all dressed up and the other kids can serve us in the living room. Then Papa and I will sit with you and watch Barbie-Something-Topia and have popcorn.
When Claire beamed at the mention of Barbie and popcorn, I knew we had a winner.
“Welcome to the We Pick What You Eat Café,” John passed out the menus that Lauren had prepared for us. These menus listed seven kinds of ice cream but since we had only made one kind an hour before the date, we chose the special. Strawberry Vanilla. Faith took our drink order and walked to and from the kitchen like a princess. She returned with a glass of water and another filled with milk and set the glasses down gently in front of us. Gently. It was a proud moment. Lauren served Claire her ice cream in a teacup and Stuart’s and mine in small bowls. John followed behind with the ice cream canister and set it down in front of Stuart. Stuart loves the “chippies” that freeze to the side of the container. Everyone laughed at the sight of the oversized metal canister glowing in the candlelight. Definitely not standard restaurant fare.
Charlie cried in the kitchen where he ate his ice cream with the toothy children. “I want ithe cream in a teacup. Claire can’t looth a tooth! It’th my turn!” Lauren came and went discreetly. John came and stayed. We scooted him off. He came back.
“Would you like me to do something waiters never do?”
Claire looked at him inquisitively. John produced a warm washcloth and proceeded to scrub the ice cream off her face.
“This is a great date, Papa. Thank you for taking me,” Claire dried her face with the back of her hand as Stuart left quarters on the table to tip the eager wait staff.
We sorted ourselves onto the sofas…hecklers and non-hecklers. Claire’s a good sport. She tolerates quiet heckling. She understands that these Barbie productions that she adores are not everyone’s cup of tea. Stuart handed her a bag overflowing with popcorn. Lauren stayed up late the evening before to paint the bag to make it look like official movie fare.
“I get a whole bag all to myself. I get this whole bag. This is all for me,” Claire announced periodically throughout the movie. It’s a big deal at our house to get something that doesn’t need to be shared.
Barbie danced across the screen as the Swan Princess. The hecklers heckled and Claire ate her popcorn very slowly. When the movie was over, Claire put on her princess dress and danced around the house. “Thank you for my date, Mama! It was a very good night. I love you!” And with that, she twirled and tiptoed off to bed.
It was a very good night.