I can do bruises and bile. But I can’t do dismemberment, which is how I regard baby teeth when they fall from a child’s head.
Ava’s bottom tooth was, as they say, “hanging by a thread”–a phrase that makes my knees warm and wobbly like overcooked spaghetti. It had been loose for two weeks. Five days ago it flopped forward and when Ava would talk, the tooth would wave at me, taunting. Through it all, that tooth remained staunchly anchored to its “thread,” that would bleed out like a main vein if severed.
I know how these things go because my mom pulled every last one of my still-tethered teeth from my head. Sometimes they weren’t always ripe for the pickin’ and she’d pull as if uprooting a tree. But I asked for it. The overwhelming fear of ingesting my tooth was enough for me to allow her acrylic, French-tipped spears into my mouth so they could callously pluck the tooth from its bed. Cue the blood rush.
I vowed that Ava wouldn’t have the same experience. Her tooth would have to jump from the ledge. I wasn’t going to push it. Better yet, she could swallow it, so I wouldn’t have to see my beloved baby’s first tooth–a sign of her innocence–falling away like a shingle from my childhood home.
While I was out, I got a text from my husband that said, “The tooth is gone.” I rushed home and my gap-toothed daughter greeted me by screaming, “I ate my tooth for dinner!”
Awesome. Until . . .
“But tomorrow you have to find it in my poop.”
Let’s add poop sifting to the list of things I don’t do.
“I’ll buy you gloves,” she offered, seeing the sweat start to bead on my forehead.
We wrote the Tooth Fairy a note, explaining the situation and put it under Ava’s pillow. Ava’s biggest concern was how a little Fairy could carry such a big note. I had bigger issues to consider.
My husband and father-in-law enthusiastically offered all sorts of suggestions for the retrieval mission none of which seemed plausible to me.
“I just can’t do it,” I said, knowing full well that no matter what, I would have to do it.
Around 10 pm, my husband announced, “Hey! I just Found Ava’s tooth!” It was sitting on her placemat, so small no one noticed its quiet death.
I said a prayer of thanks to the Tooth Fairy, to God, to Santa Claus–to whoever would listen. Then I held that tiny tooth in my hand and sadly stroked it. It had been a good, clean tooth, but it left us much too soon. I didn’t get sentimental over Ava’s first haircut. I didn’t save her nail clippings. But this tooth represented something different–something permanent that was peeking out just beneath the surface of her gums: my baby is growing up too fast.