alexandra alger


Archive for the month “October, 2016”

The Tooth Fairy’s Wad of Cash


Look whaI found—

I can’t remember what happened to her tooth…was it the one she swallowed? We told her the Tooth Fairy was just as happy with a picture as the real tooth. Oh, the magic of it all! Going to sleep with a tiny blood-crusted tooth under your pillow (or a picture thereof) and waking up to find one or two shiny quarters in its place. The Tooth Fairy never left much more than that, maybe a dollar at the most.

This was a while back, a decade or so. How much do kids get now, I wondered. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the Tooth Fairy’s is quite a bit more generous these days. In 2014, a writer named Michael Hingston, citing Visa research in, wrote that the kids were waking up to an average of $3.70, up 40% from 2011. That’s some serious tooth inflation.
Is the Tooth Fairy some kind of fat cat now, sporting rolls of bills that she peels out at the bedside? I did a quick check on recent picture books on the Tooth Fairy, just to see if she’s being imagined any differently. I didn’t find much, to my surprise. One book caught my eye: The Berenstain Bears and the Tooth Fairy, published in 2012. I love the B. Bears! And guess what, it’s all about what a tooth’s worth.

Sister Bear gets a quarter for her tooth, and she’s happy until she learns her friend Lizzy got a whole dollar for hers. Sister’s indignant (naturally): How come the Tooth Fairy gave her so much less? “Sometimes the price of things goes up, like gas,” Papa muses. “Maybe the same thing happens with teeth.” Sister hopes so. Sure enough, the next time she loses a tooth, the TF leaves a crisp dollar bill under her pillow. Papa, the price of gas may go up and down, but the price for a tooth? It’s only going one way.

Campaign calling…better late than never

I went over to the Hillary Clinton campaign office and made calls yesterday afternoon. I’ve been wanting to volunteer for…oh, months, but I kept putting it off. Because I know what campaign volunteer work primarily entails—calling people on the phone. Calling strangers who don’t want to talk to you. Bothering people in their homes. I cringe at the idea of making these kinds of calls, because—I’ll be honest—I hate getting them myself. “Hate” is too strong a word; I’m extremely impatient having to deal with strangers who want something from me. Mostly they are asking for money. I’ve gotten a lot of calls from various Democratic party entities, because I’ve given money to Hillary. I say, no, I don’t give money over the phone (true), but I’m often abrupt, not always friendly. So I cringe at the specter of my being one of those bothersome folks on the other end of the line. Also—to be more honest—I have this thing about wanting people to like me. Even people who don’t know me and can’t even see me and for whom I am simply a voice that enters their consciousness for a fraction of time.

With only 25 days to go until election day, it was now or never. I If I had to make calls, so be it. I had to do something to help Hillary beat the living nightmare that isTrump.

Sure enough: my assignment was to call Suffolk County voters to ask them if they’d decided whom they would be voting for in November, and if they were Hillary supporters, if they would be interested in volunteering. That was it. I wasn’t asking for money. Excellent. I took a deep breath and punched in the first number on my list. (I used a Hillary campaign flip phone—it was good to see she wasn’t wasting my campaign contribution on fancy equipment.) No one picked up. Many people weren’t home or weren’t picking up. In quite a few cases, the number I had was disconnected. After a dozen or so of such calls, it occurred to me that I had chosen a shift in which I was unlikely to reach many people—Friday 5 pm to 7 pm. Was this my subconscious looking out for me? I got a few men who were voting for Hillary and weren’t at all offended that I’d called. I started to relax—a bit. I talked to a woman who didn’t want to say she whom she was voting for. “Would you consider volunteering for Hillary?” I asked daringly. Of course, she responded no—but again, she didn’t seem to mind the question. I was starting to think I was cautiously starting to believe I was having a real breakthrough when an undecided voter caused me to have a brain freeze. He said he just hadn’t decided, and he was going to wait until he saw the last debate before deciding. He was Indecision incarnate; he needed me to help decide, I could hear it in his voice. But I panicked. My script told me to give him some examples of what I liked about Hillary—I went blank. I wanted to say, “You can’t possibly vote for Trump, he’s horrible,” but obviously that would’ve been inappropriate (for a Clinton supporter—Trump’s volunteer script probably reads, “You can’t vote for Crooked Hillary, she’s a liar and belongs in jail.”) I remembered my sister converted a waiter she met at a party. What was her argument? I couldn’t think. “You can go to and look at her platform,” I said weakly. I got off feeling like a total failure. And guess what—all of a sudden I wanted a chance to do better. To convert an undecided voter. I’m going to make more calls, from home. Turns out anyone can do this virtually, by going to Want to join me?

Harvesting the Kids



I’ve been trying to think of a replacement for the term “empty nester.” Which I now am, with my youngest recently off to college. I have nothing against “Empty Nest Syndrome.” It’s a catchy name for a real condition.

But people are using “empty nester” simply to describe someone whose kids are grown.
“How do you like being an empty nester?” Neighbors and friends ask me, in the same cheery way they might say, “How was your weekend?” I say that all’s well—of course, I miss Vanessa, and yes, the house does seem quiet—and incredibly neat—without any children around, etc. etc. The conversation moves on, just as it would if we were talking about the weekend, unless the other person is an empty nester, too, in which case I’ll get comforting words about how must fun empty nesting is.

OMG, it’s a verb, too!

The image of the mama bird sitting morosely in her sad egg-less nest. That’s not me.

There has to be a cooler metaphor, involving—animals. But I’ve been mentally flipping through animal lairs, and…hmm. Bear caves? Do bears actually live in caves? Rabbit burrows? Dens? “Den’s empty” definitely makes sense, and it’s even true. No teenagers are slobbing up the place. I was starting to see why “nest” was the obvious choice for whomever coined the syndrome decades ago. We all know what a nest is, and can picture it.

I thought I had an epiphany in August, when I spent four days biking through the vineyards of Chianti and Montalcino in Italy. “The grapes have been harvested,” I thought—our kids started out as grapes, and now they’re on their way to becoming a velvety wine. I’m not an empty nester, I’m a harvester.

Harvester! To the question “How are the kids?” I’d say, “They been harvested.” People could ask, “So how did the harvest go?” And I could say, “Good. It’s all done.”

Back in New York, amid the concrete and asphalt, it all sounded a bit out of keeping. A bit too …agricultural. My sister liked it, but her kids are in middle school—what does she know?

Then I had it—free agent. Free agent! “The feminists might take issue with that,” said my mom, a ’70s feminist (sort of). If Gloria Steinem ever talked about free agency, it didn’t ring a bell. But then I suddenly remembered there was a very common sports meaning for “free agent.”

I’ll do some “harvester” polling among my ED friends. And I’ll keep brainstorming. My younger friends will thank me.

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