By Johanna Fleischman

I remember when I discovered that the Tooth Fairy did not exist. As I opened the door to the laundry room, I witnessed my mother hastily stuffing a one-dollar bill into a clean white envelope. I was shocked, confused, and tried to force my way through the door as my mother instinctively attempted to shut it. But she was too late.
A few months ago, I opened the wooden door of the office cabinet and pulled out a white envelope nearly identical to the one my mother had used almost ten years ago. I slipped slyly into my room, locked the door, and wrote in a clean, silver script, “From the Tooth Fairy.”
My little seven-year-old brother displayed a grin of delight on his face when he unearthed the letter that the Tooth Fairy had left for him the night before.
“Look, she turned my tooth into a one dollar bill!” he laughed with glee. He added his precious dollar to the collection he had begun to build: birthday money, my father’s abandoned coins, and a few previous dollars from the Tooth Fairy herself.
When I reminisce about my childhood, I remember simplicity. I remember playing Beanie Babies for hours with my sister, learning to type with my father on our 1997 Windows PC, and petting my velvet rabbit, Blacky Jacky.
When I recollect yesterday, I remember finishing my Calculus homework late at night. I remember stressing over my college application. I remember thinking about my upcoming piano evaluation. I remember looking at the snail-mail letters tacked to the wall, having endured years without a reply.
Stress is not abolished when I finish my Calculus homework, or submit my college applications, or answer my letters. However, I have learned to take the final years of my teenage life and create joyful memories out of them. I have learned to not only treasure the innocent childhood years that are behind me, but also cherish the demands, responsibilities, and rewards that are earned in the grown-up world.
When I envision the future, I see college classes that need to be passed. I see paychecks that need to be earned. I see a career that needs to be upheld. I see a family that needs to be supported. It turns out that my life right now is not so stressful after all.
As I—for the eighth time—tucked a silver-scripted envelope under my bother’s pillow, I did not envy or covet his simple life of seven years. I solely hoped that his childhood could last; I prayed that he could enjoy the time he spent in a world that did not constantly make requests.
I was wrong ten years ago when I assumed that the Tooth Fairy did not exist. She does. As my brother opened his letter and looked ecstatically at his dollar bill stretched between two hands, I recognized something so simple: I was the Tooth Fairy. By bringing that innocent, childhood joy to my younger brother, I was able to bring some of it back to me.