The Last Visit of Raton Perez
One of the unexpected aspects of moving to Colombia and being thrust into instant parenthood is that the perpetuation of childhood miracles at Easter, Christmas and upon losing a tooth are quite distinct.
Santa Claus/Father Christmas really only appears in decorations as Christmas gifts are given by Niño Dios (Baby Jesus). This probably shouldn’t be so strange for me to see Santa faces and forms in houses when he isn’t an integral part of Colombian Christmas rituals as I’m guilty of buying snow-covered decorations and wrapping paper when snow is not part of Christmas in Australia.
Easter Bunny doesn’t exist and there are no chocolate giving traditions at Easter. Coming from the country with the highest per capita Easter egg chocolate consumption, I find this very sad, although if you look hard you can rely on a few imported Lindt Chocolate bunnies to cheer up the season.
Another changing face of childhood magic is the Tooth Fairy whose gossamer wings have been replaced by a whiskered mouse called Ratón Pérez.
Perhaps I want to try to hold onto my own childhood memories by bringing these traditions into my family here but I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought much about the impact of me thrusting them upon D who by that time had already celebrated 7 Christmases, 7 Easters and lost a couple of teeth. I must remember to ask him when he’s older if he noticed the difference in these events after I came into his life because all of a sudden Santa came to visit, leaving gifts behind in a pillowcase laid out by the tree, chocolate was consumed at Easter, and instead of putting his lost tooth under his pillow he had to put it in a glass of water on the mantelpiece in order to receive the money.
In the past year and a half, Ratón Pérez has made over 10 visits to our place, although I think now he is just about done. I remember one of the first teeth to come out in Bogotá; D had been fiddling with his loose tooth for quite some time, giving us updates on his progress every so often. I remember as a kid getting the dental floss and tying it around my loose tooth to help give a little pull. It’s one of those fascinating agonies we can’t help but be drawn to. After quite some time and in a burst of bravery, the tooth came out. We probably didn’t make enough noise about his achievement, instead directing him to put it in a glass of water on the mantel and saying Ratón Pérez would come during the night.
The next morning there was a 2,000 peso note in the glass and no tooth. D started to rant and get upset. It wasn’t over the amount of money he had received, rather he was upset that Ratón Pérez had taken his tooth. The horror! His words were “I wanted to keep my tooth, it took me a lot of effort to pull it out.” He wasn’t happy with our explanation that it is an exchange process, the tooth for money and so the following week when the next loose tooth came out with some help from the school nurse (who has helped him pull at least 2 teeth out during school) he put the tooth in the glass of water but this time wrote a note asking Ratón Pérez to leave him his tooth because he had invested so much effort into pulling it out. The next morning there was a tooth in the glass, but no money, and so it continued for the next two nights until D finally took the petition down and resigned himself to the fact that he couldn’t have both.
I had expected that by now, at age 11, D would have definitely cottoned on to Ratón Pérez being Edwin and I, but with one of his last teeth to come out we forgot to swap the tooth for money and in the morning when he checked it before going to school, he got really angry that Ratón Pérez hadn’t come. His reaction was not that of a boy who knew his parents were behind the scam.
It’s nice that he’s still so innocent, although we can see that beginning to change. He’s going through a big growth spurt and his interests are evolving. Now that I think all his baby teeth are out, there’s no need for him to keep believing in Ratón Pérez , but for now, we’ll just hold onto the last vestiges of his affectionate and innocent boyhood before the magic wears off.