STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It is a Friday morning, when we hear from our series StoryCorps. This project is traveling the country to record people talking about their lives and loved ones. Lisa Ray stepped into a recording booth in Norfolk, Virginia because she wanted to share a particular memory of her father.
Ms. LISA RAY: I lost my father when I was six and a half, and I just don't really have that many strong memories of him. The ones that I do have I kind of cling to. When I was five, I started to get a loose tooth and I told Mom that it was ready to come out. And she said, well, you know, wait 'til Daddy gets home; that's his job. So, he got home and started to go to work on it.
And when it was over, he told me all these stories about the tooth fairy, you know, what it'd be like when she came and what fairies were like.
So, when I went to bed that night I was so excited. My sister and I shared a bedroom and I put my tooth under the pillow. And I woke up the next morning and I stuck my hand under the pillow and pulled out my tooth. Mom and Daddy were eating breakfast, so I held out my hand with a tooth on it. Mama started to say something and Daddy just threw his hand out and stopped her and said, Ray is at the end of the alphabet. The tooth fairy must've been really busy last night. You've got to go back to bed now.
So, I crawled into bed and I started to doze off. And then I heard these footsteps coming down the hallway, so I shut my eyes really quickly. And I thought, don't fairies fly? And I then I felt this presence over my face and this large hairy hand slide under the pillow. And I thought, aren't fairies tiny little women?
So, I peeked through my lashes and I saw the door shutting and the back of a bald head that looked just like my dad's. And I sat up and I pulled my quarter out. When my sister came in from the shower, so I figured Vickie'd know, 'cause she was 12 and she knew everything. So, I said, I don't think there is a tooth fairy, I think it's Daddy.
And she said, what makes you say that? And I told her what I'd seen, and she said that was the gentle giant. He helps the tooth fairy when she's busy. I said, Daddy didn't say anything about a giant. So, she followed me in the kitchen and before I could say a word, she said, Daddy, Lisa doesn't believe me about the gentle giant, even though she just saw him.
And Daddy looked at me, without missing a beat, he said, of course, I told you about that yesterday. I almost argued and then I suddenly realized I had a mouth full of teeth and each one was worth a quarter.
You know, that story - I've held onto that all those years because my dad kind of messed up. It was my chance to see him as a human being and it made me really happy that I had that one solid memory. I think every kid needs to see their parents as a human being.
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INSKEEP: Lisa Ray in Norfolk, Virginia. He interview will be archived, along with all StoryCorps interviews, at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The podcast is at NPR.org.
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INSKEEP: It's NPR News.