We’ve been married seven years, have two kids, have lived in eight homes, two countries and four states. We speak each other’s native languages and have lived for at least a couple months with each other’s parents during transitions. After all that, one would think we would have a clear understanding of each other's backgrounds. And yet, as I learned the other day, there are still times when the great Turk/American cultural divide totally bites us in the ass.
Did you know, there is no Tooth Fairy in Turkey? No? Me either.
It was totally logical for me to believe that there would be a Turkish Tooth Fairy. There is a Turkish Red Ridinghood, she just keeps it on the down-low by using the moniker- Kırmızı Başlıklı Kız. Bert and Ernie have been fluent in Turkish since the early 70’s and even that sniveling little Caliou has found a massive fan base with tiny Turks. For the love of God, they even have Santa, though he is called Baba Noel and instead of a big gut and long white beard he’s thin with a bushy 'stache and instead of milk and cookies he prefers a cup of tea and a smoke and instead of coming on December 25 th he doesn’t make an appearance until December 31st, but other than that… Oh, cut them some slack, it’s tough to have a solid Christmas understanding in a Muslim nation. But I digress. With this knowledge of childhood icons it was reasonable for me to assume that there was also a tutu-clad gal that snuck into the sleeping quarters of young Turks and replaced their recently liberated baby teeth with a Lira or two. But no. This ugly truth was revealed last week when the Midget finally lost his first tooth.
For a 5 year old, that is pretty much the pinnacle of fitting in with one’s peers and we all know kindergartners can be pretty intimidating as far as peer pressure goes. The Midget was the last of his friends to go toothless but now he was part of the in-crowd. As that little tiny white nugget freed itself in a piece of morning toast, there was much celebration. I should have been tipped off by the impending cultural divide by the strange look I received from the Turk as I rushed to bag the tooth like evidence on CSI. However, I get that look often so I paid it no mind. I then began to remind the Turk to bring home cash for the great nighttime hand off and was met with yet another blank nod, but again, I thought it totally the norm.
As the day progressed and the Midget was filled with information from his merry band of munchkins on the playground, he was ready for the big payoff. From dinner through bath he could discuss nothing else and as he carefully tucked the tooth under his pillow, the Turk finally said, “What in the hell are you doing? Throw that thing in garbage. It is disgusting.” With big blue eyes the Midget said, “But Baba, the Tooth Fairy will take it.” And then, there it was – the bomb was lowered– “What is Tooth Fairy? There are no fairies. Fairies are not real. Why you pretending this? Only the girls like the fairies.”
Once again I had to swoop in and wipe away the pain of truth those damn Turks love to lay down all too often. His are a nation of people that find sheer joy from bursting bubbles with cold, hard reality. I know. I lived with them and came home with years’ worth of busted bubbles. After shooting Baba the look – ladies, you all know the look to which I refer- and a quick dismissal of Baba’s accusations with the explanation that boys can like fairies too and that fairies do not like bad kids and Baba was a bad kid so therefore the Tooth Fairy never made a visit to him - it hit me.
“There is no Tooth Fairy in Turkey is there?”
“No. What the hell is Tooth Fairy?”
“You leave your tooth under the pillow and in the morning the Tooth Fairy has taken it and replaced it with money.”
“Well that just sounds stupid.”
“What did your parents do when you lost a tooth?”
“Throw it in trash like you should do.”
“That's harsh and it's not happening. This child is in America now and we are doing this like my people.”
“Ok, well maybe Fairy can bring me something too?”
“Not a chance Turk. “
After the Midget had tucked the tooth and nodded off, there was much debate over the price per tooth and the absurdity of the tradition but I won and the Midget awoke to a payoff. But the next morning there was much shrapnel to clean up thanks to Baba blowing the Fairy’s cover and as we got ready for school, I was met with an interrogation:
“Is it a he or a she?” - “He” – It just seemed more festive in my mind to make the Tooth Fairy a drag queen.
“How does he know I lost a tooth?” - “I call the hotline.”
“What’s the number?” - “1-888-Toothy-go.”
“How does he get in?” - “Backdoor”
“Does he keep the teeth?” – “Yes?”
“Did he dig Baba’s teeth out of the trash when he was little?” - “Um, sure.”
“What does he do with the teeth?” - “Um, gives them to babies.”
“So the tooth my brother is getting might be my old one? Gross Mom.” - “Yes that is gross.” Mom doesn’t always think so fast on her feet.
“Do I get more money for bigger teeth?” – “No.”
“Well that’s a rip off.” - At least he’s still well adjusted.
Now that I’ve saved Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy all in the past couple years I’m pretty certain I can take on anything…until the next great cultural divide.