Friday, October 27, 2006

The Tooth Fairy's Haul

Religion is a subject I tend to stay away from. Too easy to spotlight my ignorance. Too emotional of a topic to tie an adult understanding to. It all comes down to making leaps and I prefer my feet to be solidly on the ground, even though that ground may open up and swallow me whole, depositing me down in you know where. I do enjoy reading other folks' take on religion. Bravery in theology is not my forte.

But when belief and physical combine, my interest perks up. For those of us getting by with a 1/4 tank of faith in the spiritual engine, there's nothing like a tangible item to help bridge the gap between the five senses and the thin air around us. At least until we find a filling station that'll provide the right fuel.

A trip a way's back to Italy with my son was an eye-opener for me. Italy is such a confusion of emotion, touch, beauty, and guilt for me anyway. The devestating glory of its churches, shrines, and cathedrals combined with the peculiarities of their construction that can only be concocted by the behaviour of man. For lack of a better way of putting it, it seemed to this tourist that a pseudo-cannibalistic mentality was in play, if not at the center of the structures' raison d'être at least at one of their cornerstones. Most of the churches had at least part of a body of a saint. Some had the entire corpse, but the guides were elusive in their explanations of the bodies in question. Truthfully, these were reallycorpora delecti, as most of the church's permanent residents (or there parts) were victims of what may feintly be termed as capital murder. These bodies or body parts have euphomistically been called relics for a while. This Catholic method of building a holy house and fitting it with appropriate art work back in the day was a cause for some of the over-the-top artists of the time. Some of the body parts stories are, well, simply ghoulish. The most intriguing body parts story had to do with St. Catherine of Siena. Siena, a city of beauty and intrigue. The SSan Domenico Church church in Siena houses the head and a finger of St. Catherine, while her body rests in the Minerva Church in Rome. St. Catherine is a bit like the Scarecrow, a piece here, a piece there, a piece way over there.

Per the guide's off the-cuff remarks, we pieced together (sorry!) that two churches in the general area of Siena would raid each other's building for parts of poor St. Catherine.

Having been raised a Catholic, mainly in the States, I was always used to a level of certain level of solemnity and an above-the-fray attitude such that humanity was squeezed out of religion. The trip to Italy was an explosion of humanness and religion for me. The distance between a church's physical substance and the its purported eternal airs was eliminated. While not a practicing Catholic, I appreciated the vicious need for corporeal connection that the churches in Italy offered. The utter blandness of the American Catholic churches, the lack of eye candy paintings and statues to focus on when the sermons turned into lectures, and the lack of the smell of the old confessions hanging like clean sheets around the confessionals made church-going in the States a brutally non-spiritual affair. (The only church that I felt great about was Notre Dame in Montreal, a magnificent and Old World connected cathedral. That link is a large download, but well worth the wait.)

This all came back to me the other day, when a conversation about the tooth fairy came up. Since my kids are past the Tooth-for-Dollars exchange program, I was wondering what the going market exchange rate was. A comparison of younger parents averaged to $5/tooth, with the first tooth exchangeable for an average of $10/ tooth. Some noted that their kids had started negotiating with the Tooth Fairy through adorably mis-spelled letters, stating their need for additional funds per tooth.

Then the second shoe dropped.
What does the parent do, as the agent for the Tooth Fairy, with said tooth after money has been exchanged? Some folks have patented their storage solution. Others offer pillows at $38 a pop, but I guess since you can re-use the pillow for each of the 20 teeth your child first has, this method comes to $1.90/tooth...except you can't be storing those teeth in that same pillow, right.

So, to celebrate your child's passages and show how much they mean to you and to reinforce Michael Blowhard's contention that the adults of the good ol' US of A has given up control to our kids, I suggest building our own little churches based on our child's teeth. Each structure is built upon a fallen tooth. The molars would be our kid's cathedrals. Divorced parents need not worry about having to make late-night raids on their ex-spouse's holdings to come up with the dental goods. Hey, there's plenty of teeth to go around for everybody!

I was wondering where this post was "headed".

At our house, teeth had a rating, much like a stock holding; if it was an especially painful loss (as in a baby molar), then Queen LaTeefa (the name my girls had for the tooth fairy - they thought the Hollywood Latifah was surely a secret tooth fairy, her own pearly whites were so gorgeous) had best be appreciative. Front teeth that came out with an easy lisping whistle never counted for much coinage. And it was always coin(s), never old paper bills.
Thanks for the info on the Texas Tooth Exchange RAte, CP. As far as where this post was going....I love those long wide turns.
First, I agree that the Gothic cathedrals of Italy command our attention. I may be shining a light on my own ignorance, but I recently learned that most were built by the Free Masons who ultimately became an alternative to the Catholic Church.

I'm married to a Catholic and have tried to make the conversion without much success...I haven't yet figured out when to stand up, sit down, kneel, cross myself, and make that little move with the swirl. All the liturgy squeezes the spirit out of it for me too...that may work for some, but it doesn't work for me. It's easy to understand how so many Catholics drift away from "religion."

As for using our children's tooth money to build cathedrals, worse things have happened in the history of the Church, things to which you have already alluded. I think there are parts of St. Catherine in Croatia as well. ;-)
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