There are an awful lot of things that look just like a human tooth.
I was just chatting on Facebook with a dear friend about the Easter Bunny. Somehow I’ve managed to virtually ignore him, creepy though he is. Somehow we’ve dodged the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy. I already explained my Easter Bunny issues. The tooth fairy thing is pure laziness on my part. I saw that the children were coming out of nowhere. I have enough math prowess to realize that four kids x a million teeth in each mouth equals 4 million teeth. And then I started thinking about Orthodontia. Well, no thanks on paying them to spit out their teeth. And no thanks on scary little unexplained critters creeping in, taking the tooth, and replacing it with a buck. And who drove up the cost of that anyway? I always got a quarter. Now it’s a dollar, and that’s if you’re a cheapskate. Did I say that ignoring the Tooth Fairy was laziness? Now that I am typing, it appears to be completely intentional. I guess I have Tooth Fairy issues also. It’s probably a good thing I do, because the whole “losing teeth” process has been a wreck in this house from.the.beginning. The afternoon AG lost his first tooth was traumatic enough to write down. So, as shocked as you may be by this, I typed out a REALLY LONG story about it. In a smack down between the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, I wonder who would win?
How many of you are first children? The oldest. The experiment in your parents’ search for the perfect combination of discipline, nurturing, instruction, and adventure? Well, I’m here to tell you I’m sorry. I’m sorry they messed you up. On behalf of parents everywhere, I apologize for bungling the moments that should have been sacred, for spanking when I should have hugged, for hugging when I should have spanked, for glaring when I should have laughed, and for losing things that can never be recovered. And on behalf of parents everywhere, I can tell you in all sincerity that they really did try to do it right. And here’s my story.
Several weeks ago, AG showed up with a loose tooth. It was appropriately the same tooth that first appeared in his head when he was four months old. And appropriately that tooth would exit the world as silently and mysteriously as it first appeared more than 5 years ago. This loose tooth was a matter of great pride for the boy. He wiggled it, displayed it, and spoke of it often. He was looking forward to the day when that tooth would become a breezeway to his gullet–a trophy of sorts. It didn’t seem to be progressing very quickly, so I stopped reaching into his mouth to try it out myself. Until last Wednesday. It was a crisp, November afternoon and the other two children were sleeping. A friend was doing laundry and studying inside while AG and I played ball in the back yard together. He laughed about something and I noticed his tooth was noticeably different. So I reached in and this time, the looseness was shocking. That tooth fell forward at the pressure of one finger and felt as if it would fall out in my hand. So I called my mom, who loves to pull teeth (she was the neighborhood tooth fairy in my childhood days) and scheduled a pulling for 5:15 on their way to dinner. AG was unaware of this plan. It’s just better that way with him. He’s what you might call anxious. When my parents showed up, he proudly showed them his loose tooth and attempted to go about his business. At that point, I tried my best to do a quick “wegottapullthistoothbeforeitfallsoutandweloseitoryouswallowit” speech, followed immediately by a capture-and-yank operation. Had we actually gotten the tooth on the first yank, this would have been a perfect plan. But that little puppy was more stubborn than it looked and it took four yanks to commandeer it. By the fourth pull — and mind you, we were out in the driveway — I began to glance furtively around for undercover reps for the Department of Children and Families. He cried. He bit down on a Kleenex to clot the empty space in his mouth. It was over and fine. And I walked inside with the tooth. I set it on the entry way table while I got AG and Mamasboy settled on the bed to watch a movie. AG was still sniffling a little and Mamasboy was just following after us blindly. Then, I picked up that tooth, walked into the kitchen to throw something away, and with eyes as big as a pizza pan, watched that tiny little enameled fleck of love fly out of my grasp and into the kitchen trash. It was one of those slow motion “nooooooo” kind of moments. You watch it happen in slow motion but somehow cannot interrupt or retard the speed at which it is actually happening. And then you look up in real time and say to whomever is unlucky enough to be listening, “I just threw my first child’s first tooth into a soggy can of garbage. Now that’s just bad parenting.”
The tooth was in the kitchen trash now. The friend doing laundry was looking at me from the big brown chair. Beloved, (still an infant) was asleep in her upstairs bedroom. AG and Mamasboy were blissfully unaware of this latest snag. And the phone was ringing. Ignoring all of that, I leaned over that trash can where I spent the next 90 minutes of my life. I craned my neck and strained my eyes and spotted the tiny baby tooth wedged between the empty Miracle Whip jar and the side of the trashcan. That’ll teach me to recycle. This is going to be tricky, I thought as I went in after that tooth. In retrospect, it’s easy to see that I should have tried anything but the reach-and-grab. Reach in with some duct tape and draw it out with adhesive. Go in with tweezers. Sit the trashcan aside and wait for Todd to come home. Anything. But I reached in for that tooth and that’s the last I saw of it. It slipped beyond my line of sight and took a journey into refuse that I was forced to follow. Like a homicide detective, I removed trash from that trash bag piece by piece, peeling back each layer as Melissa attempted to continue studying just a few feet away. But as the minutes passed without success, my heart rate increased, my hair became fluffier, my tone became strained, and Melissa got up and asked for a flashlight. Now there were two people combing through garbage. Oh, I think I see the tooth. No, that’s just the morning grits. OK, I think I have it. Nope. Feta cheese. Did you know that even the inside of a broken pretzel looks like a human tooth? It does. The previous night’s Beef Burgundy did not make this any more pleasant, I can assure you. (Incidentally, it was this same beef burgundy that had murdered my cell phone a couple of weeks prior to this…)
By this point, I was beginning to stress over the kids walking in on the scene or the baby waking up. I kept glancing at my watch and wondering how Bible class was going to fit into this covert operation. I now had the trash can between my knees like a full term baby. My hair was worse than anything I’ve ever seen; just an explosion of chaos. I was taking the occasional break to stand up and whisper, “you idiot” under my breath to myself. And all the removed trash was strewn out on every horizontal surface in the kitchen. All counter tops were employed in the operation and half of the kitchen table. No biggie. Just the places we prepare and eat our food. This project outlasted Melissa, who badly wanted to help but had to return to the dorms, craving a return to anything that felt remotely normal. The operation continued throughout the microwaved dinners I placed in front of the boys. What are you doing, Mama? Just looking for something important, boys. Don’t mind the dissected diapers. Don’t touch. Eat your macaroni and cheese.
At 6:55, I gave up. And with 5 minutes to work with, we all changed clothes and went to church, leaving the garbage to further collect bacteria and resigning myself to the idea that I was probably never going to see that tooth again.
Strangely enough, AG never asked to see or hold his tooth. He never asked about the tooth fairy. We decided not to even get into the whole tooth fairy thing. AG is scared of his own shadow. He’s scared of firefighters. I just didn’t think he was going to be excited about some invisible fairy sneaking in and reaching under his pillow as he slept. But a dollar appeared on his floor next to his bed, as a reward for the memory of that tooth. And that was that. All I have to show for it is a can full of rearranged trash and this blog post.