"You're Santa Claus!" Gus blurted out. "I know you are! You put on a white beard, dress up in a red suit and leave presents under the tree! It's you! It's you!"
Larry denied it. After all, Patrick was in the car, and wouldn't it be nice if Gus could believe for just one more year?
"Search the house," Larry said. "You won't find any red suit, because I don't have one."
"It's you, Dad. You are Santa. I know it."
Then yesterday, Gus yanked a loose tooth. His fifth.
I congratulated him and wondered out loud how the Tooth Fairy calculated her pricing for fifth teeth.
"I know you're the Tooth Fairy, Mom."
"Who are you calling a fairy?" I said.
"Stop it, Mom. I know it's you. You dress up like a fairy, sneak in my room, take my teeth, and leave money under my pillow."
"Gus, that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
He shook his head and walked off down the hall.
So why do we keep up the charade? For Patrick's sake, surely. But also for Gus's. Because, while he's inching closer and closer to the truth, he's still not quite seeing the big picture. There's still a trace of magic in his mind's eye.
Here is my boy, who believes that every Christmas Eve, after he and his brother are fast asleep, his dad puts on a beard and Santa Suit and places presents under the tree. And every time he loses a tooth, his mother straps on wings, slips into her fairy costume, and slides quarters under his pillow.
I thought about this last night, as I tiptoed upstairs in plain old pajamas, as opposed to wings, and placed a pack of Skittles and some quarters under his sleeping head. My oldest son doesn't believe in the Tooth Fairy anymore; he believes in me.
(The Easter Bunny, on the other hand, is a whole different story.)