Last month you were debilitated with the fear of your loose tooth–would you swallow the tooth in your sleep and choke on it or would it somehow make its way to your belly where it would sit and grow in to a behemoth life form? Every night before bed was spent reassuring you that everything would be fine. If you swallowed your tooth, it wouldn’t be a big deal and you would most likely feel it if it came out anyway. I never swallowed any of my teeth so it didn’t really seem probable. Don’t most kids inevitably pop it out with their tongues and catch it in their hands? Which is partly what you did but of course you have a flair for the dramatics and something as simple as a loose tooth requires the use of every emotion in your repertoire.
Your loose tooth had reached that grotesque point where you can push it horizontal with your tongue so I knew it was only a matter of time before that thing was going to pop out. You, me and Miles were eating dinner when you were showing us the amazing feats of your loose tooth when all of a sudden you grab your mouth and yelp out in pain. Through tears and a mouthful of food, you whimper to me that you bit in to your food with your loose tooth and it really hurts. As I’m watching you explain to me what just unfolded at the dinner table, I notice a tiny white speck bobbing in the food compacted in your cheek. Knowing your anxiety level teeters between high and psychotic breakdown, I quickly alerted you that your tooth is out and not to swallow your food. I reach closer to grab the tooth but you quickly bat my hand away and protect your mouth with your other hand. I explain to you that your tooth is out and not to swallow your food because if you do, down goes the tooth. I urge you not to swallow because I know I will be dealing with a full blown panic attack if that happens. I quickly cup my hands under your mouth and tell you to spit everything out in to my hand. You seem to agree or at least I think you understand what I am asking until you swallow the mouthful of food and proceed to spit air in to my hand. I look at you stunned with a gaping mouth.
I informed you that you in fact just swallowed your tooth and the screams that bellowed from deep within your belly could be heard clear across this great state. The shrill screams that ensued would have made neighbors make the assumption that a murder was taking place right in the middle of our kitchen. The tears are flowing and now your skin is turning in to that weird red splotchy pattern that only happens when a child is in the middle of a grade A fit. I look across the dining table and witness Miles attempting to eat the rest of his dinner off the plate with both hands cupped over his ears in an attempt to save himself from any further permanent hearing loss.
Consoling you during these first few minutes is more than impossible. Add the fact that you now discover the steady stream of blood flowing from the new gaping hole in your mouth and now you’re downright catatonic. It took almost an hour and a full glass of wine (for me although you could have used one too), to finally bring you to a state of coherency. I actually felt that we had endured all five stages of grief in that forty-five minute episode. You finally reached the stage of acceptance after no tears were left to shed and your vocal chords had swelled to the point where you spoke with a husky smoker’s voice. You looked at me with the most serious expression and asked, can we check my poop in the morning for my tooth? The thought alone made me gag and I reassured you once again that possession of the tooth wasn’t necessary for the tooth fairy to arrive. You accepted my explanation and returned to your dinner.
You went to bed that night sad that you weren’t placing a tooth under your pillow and I’ll even admit that I felt sad for you. You have been talking about this moment since you were three years old when you first learned about teeth falling out and the tooth fairy. You always asked me when it would be your turn and in this moment, I couldn’t help but feel that you got a little jipped in the growing up department. You awoke the next morning like every other morning. No acknowledgement for what may or may not be under your pillow so I figured maybe you forgot about it. I thought it strange that you didn’t mention anything about it until you began to push me to make your bed which you never do. After the fourth or so inquiry as to whether I was going to make your bed, I realized that you found your silver dollar and you somehow wanted me to find it while making your bed. Turns out that was the case and you found your shiny silver dollar in the wee hours of the morning but couldn’t get it in to your piggy bank so decided to surprise me with it instead.
The day went on and suddenly you announced that you had to go number two. Now, I wasn’t planning to do what I’m about to tell you nor do I have any infatuation with stools. I am however, really big in to my children and incredibly sentimental. You finished your business and I set you on your way. I looked down in to the toilet and knew somewhere in there was your first baby tooth. A small symbol of the baby you used to be and I found myself unable to flush that down the toilet. I couldn’t bring myself to let go of something so precious and since I’ve had my fair share of poop incidences with you, I decided to don some gloves and start searching.
It’s perfectly normal if you’re gagging right now because if it were any other person beside my offspring, I would be heaving in to a bucket. Mothers are somehow unphased by their children’s stools. Perhaps it is the countless episodes of poop on the hands or inexplicable poop explosions, such as experienced here. My children’s poop does not gross me out. It doesn’t mean I want to bathe in it–it just means I can handle it if it’s in the vicinity or if it’s containing my child’s first tooth. After a few minutes of searching, I found the tiny tooth. I quickly take it over to the sink and start washing it off because you know, it did just came from a fresh one. Not really thinking the next part through, I begin rinsing the tooth but between the high water pressure and the slickness of my gloves, the tooth falls from my hand and drops down the drain. Oh hell no! I did not just sift through poop to immediately drop it down a drain. I quickly pull out the plug to see if I can see it but that proves to be unsuccessful. I immediately tear open the cabinets below and as if I had been a plumber in another life, quickly start taking apart the pipes below. I plug up the sink and pour out the water that is sitting in the pipe. No tooth. In a last ditch effort, I rinse the pipe out gently and ploop, out pops the tooth.
Understanding what this tooth now means to me, I quickly wrap it in tissue paper and carry it downstairs to clean it properly. After explaining to your dad what I just did, I can’t quite read whether his expression is one of disgust or awe for my commitment and dedication to you. I explain to him that all I want to do is clean this thing without it going down another drain. Since we mask our alcoholism with wine and beermaking, we have access to an array of equipment. Armed with a hand held mesh screen normally used for separating grape juice from seeds and grape skins, I was able to wash the tooth fully but I wanted to make sure it was sanitary. I’m not going to house an item still incased with fecal matter so I took precautions like any parent and grabbed their household container of beer and wine line cleaner. You know, the product that cleans out keg lines by removing organic compounds. Added a few tablespoons of that to some water, dropped in the tooth, gave it a quick swirly-doo and voila, a gleaming fresh tooth resurrected from the bowels of hell.
Since I lost the first bag of your first hair clippings and now the ordeal surrounding your first tooth, your dad likes to joke now that somehow I’m the root of all this drama but I like to think the exact opposite. Somehow, I’m the force that is preventing the worst from happening. I didn’t show you the tooth because we had already made a big ordeal about the tooth not having to be present for the tooth fairy to arrive and I even had the tooth fairy write a note to explain the process in detail with how she handles such circumstances–yes, the tooth fairy writes letters and yes, she follows certain protocols. One day, I will show you the tooth and no, it will never be removed from its bag or I will no doubt lose it forever.
You turned six years old a couple weeks back and between this birthday and you starting kindergarten, I’ve been struggling with the notion of you growing up. This first loose tooth of yours was another glaring reminder that you’re no longer that baby that used to fall asleep on my chest. You’re a full blown child who has dreams and starts sentences with, I suppose. You read to me and tell me you want to save all your money for when you’re a grown up. You build lego sets all by yourself and tell me that you want to learn more about space so that you can put another American flag on the moon. The hardest part about parenting is watching your child move a little further away with each day that passes. This tooth will not bring back my baby but it allows me to hold on to what I can. Happy birthday, my o-bear. May this story of your first lost tooth prove to you that there is nothing that I won’t do for you.