By virtue of its shrill tone the tiny voice cut across the cafeteria chatter. “Miss Ann! Miss Ann!”

I turned and let my eyes settle on Gretchen, who was waving her arms frantically above her head on the other side of the room. I put down my sandwich, got up, and went over to her table.

“Miss Ann, the tooth fairy came!”

I smiled down at her and she grinned back, revealing gaping holes where most of her teeth had been just a few days previous. Her bidentate grimace, gleeful as a jack o’ lantern, widened and she stuck her finger in her mouth to identify the most recent hole.

“I got a dollar from the tooth fairy.”

Gretchen is the kind of seven year old who covets attentions, begs for it, out of a need for reassurance, for safety.

“That’s good, Gretchen,” I said, gently guiding her back into her seat at the lunch table. “I hope you’re saving it for something really great.”


It was as if he had transformed completely in the thirty minutes since his parents had left him in her care. Instead of the somber, sober littler boy who seemed content staring at the TV screen, punching buttons on the controller with his thumbs, Claire was now faced with a blousy, blustering eight-year-old who wouldn’t sit still long enough or shut up long enough for her to give him a time out. It was not that she had never before encountered such a messy, noisy boy ; it was more that she hadn’t expected this one to be prone to such a transformation when the watchful parental eyes were suddenly absent.