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Researching El Ratón

Submitted by on July 17, 2009 – 5:23 am9 Comments

Toothless smileMaria, my daughter of 5-years and nearly 7-months, lost her first tooth this past weekend.

I was not prepared for the emotion of it all. I should have been. Her best buddy, just a month older, lost two teeth in May. Overly dramatic as it sounds, it messed with my head for an entire day when I saw her toothless friend. I lied to myself, told myself kids don’t usually lose teeth at 5.

And then, Maria gleefully discovered she too finally had a wiggly tooth. And oh Mami joy, look there’s another loose one! Needless to say she is quite proud of the small front-and-center gap.

The bear of it is that those two teeth were the first to come in, and the two teeth which I personally blame for about two months of sleepless nights and now, I have to shell out money for them? (Going rate at our house is one silver dollar.)

So, once I got over the initial angst about my only child offering yet more glaring evidence that she is growing up, I posted to my Facebook Page: I am “now a Tooth Fairy too.” Friends cheered, shared stories about glitter trails, made me promise not to raise the rate from the buck, and in particular, two Latina friends asked me what El Ratonicito Pérez left for Maria.

(Insert sound of needle scratching against vinyl now)

What? Que ratonicito? Mouse? I racked my brain. I remember Miguel, but Pérez? My memory of the mouse is faint. I liken the memory to the same feeling you get when someone mentions the guy who used to sit in the back of chemistry class. You know, the quiet one? With the hair in his eyes? Him. Oh…yeah…maybe…

So, in the same way, I forgot about the mouse, the little Spanish dude who lives in a caja de galleticas and is known by children across the Americas, I forget stuff. Forget cultural references. Some I just never knew. Our Mexican friends sing “dale, dale, dale…” before whacking the pinata. I didn’t grow up with that. We just yanked all at once. My parents never sung las mananitas to us on our birthdays. We got “Hoppy Birday to Ju!” We didn’t do Los Magos. I had completely forgotten about the lullaby Arruru until I heard it on a CD a friend gave me when I was hugely pregnant. I broke down crying at the memory of my Mama singing it to me. It was in there, in the folds of my brain. It just needed a trigger to be released. It became the first song I sung to my newborn.

In the attempt to raise my kinda-Cuban daughter with a connection to her Latin side, I realize am part historian, part sociologist, part anthropologist. When a faint memory hits, or I come upon a cultural reference I don’t know well, I go off and research it. I want Maria to know and embrace the best of both worlds. And, I offer these traditions to her knowing she will grab on and remember what she will. Some will fade. Some will make her heart beat faster just at the very memory. 

So, now that I know mucho, mucho about El Ratón, he and the Tooth Fairy will have their first engagement at our house very soon. That second tooth is super suelto.

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  • Carla says:

    This is getting bookmarked for that day, many years away still, when my girls start to go toothless! I love discovering bits about our culture I’d forgotten or had never been introduced to.

  • Roxana says:

    I love it! Can’t imagine the day Vanessa will go through this… I don’t remember calling el ratoncito having a last name, I just remember we’d leave our tooth underneath our pillows and for some strange reason, the coins would be left behind our bedroom’s door. I gotta ask my mom why… Thanks for sharing, Carrie!

  • I love reading your stories, Carrie. They remind me of the constant tug of a heritage we keep proudly even as our memories lose their clarity, like fading photographs. Born in Cuba but in the U.S. since the age of seven, speaking and writing in my milk tongue is harder than in English. But Carlos Eire said it best. “My Spanish is a dwarf now. But it’s a dwarf who holds the keys to my soul.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts as you raise a new generation.

  • Tia Mirtha says:

    The only Ratoncito Perez I remember, es el que se cayo en hoya por la golocina de una cebolla.

  • Ana Lilian says:

    Era un ratoncito??? I remember a “conejito!”

    And a very cheap conejito at that! ;)

    Love Maria’s pic!

  • Ana Lilian says:

    Era un ratoncito??? I remember a “conejito!”

    And a very cheap conejito at that! ;)

    Love Maria’s pic!
    Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

  • Carrie says:

    You guys are hilarious and thank you for being with me in the who the hell is he thing.
    And Raul, high praise coming from you. Thank you for your message and Eire’s quote. Yes, for sure.

  • Alicia says:

    Hi Carrie,
    Okay now I am confused. I thought his name was El Ratoncito Miguel. So if he’s Perez, then who is Miguel? I remember a song about El Ratoncito Miguel and I thought he was the tooth guy.

  • Violeta says:

    I grew up with el Ratoncito Perez in Spain. And then, I made fun of the tooth fairy because, really, who believes in fairies? I remember seeing tons of mice and rats in Madrid at the time, so el Ratoncito Perez was totally believable. :)

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