Cutting my teeth

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Tonight, my daughter lost her seventh tooth.

The losing of teeth is a rite of passage in many ways. I recall losing my own teeth and feeling, with certainty, that this was a sign - long before puberty hit me broadside - that I was growing up. Getting the dimes, and occasional quarter from the tooth fairy was a bonus, for sure. But long after the money had been spent, the big new teeth remained, my face changing from a child to a young woman.

Before my own daughter, I had not given alot of thought to the losing of teeth and the dilemnia that it presents for parents. Since I naturally assumed that the tooth fairy whisked my sacred teeth to her tooth kingdom, it never occurred to me that my mother was the culprit in the covert tooth removal operation.

It wasn't until my child lost her first tooth that I was presented with the age old question - What the hell do you do with the teeth? I mean, Santa? Easter Bunny? No problem. I had these mystical characters down pat. I KNEW how to make convincing easter bunny nibbles in carrots, I made it seem as if reindeers had nibbled at the sugar and crumbs were left to prove Santa had indeed partaken of the snack we left - including the empty glass of wine we leave for Santa. (Santa enjoys a little change of pace from the whole milk thing. It makes him more generous with the gifts.)

But a flying fairy? Involving discarded body parts?

And let's just say that this isn't in most parenting magazines yet. ""What to do with your child's old teeth: Five jewelery tips!" or "Parents who callously throw their child's baby teeth away raise a higher percentage of high school dropouts!", "Today on Oprah, Strippers who can trace their downfall to waking up and finding out that their mother was the Tooth Fairy."

It seems somehow wrong to throw away a piece of my child. I mean, I saved the little stump of her umbilical cord too. Ok, stop wrinkling your noses. It doesn't smell or anything. It's a visceral reminder of her time in my body. As she grows older and more independant, I treasure those small reminders of her babyhood. When my breasts were Nirvana for her and when I remained the funniest,wisest, most comforting human on the earth.

Now, with the loss of her seventh tooth, she is becoming a young woman. Her face is changing shape. She is sassy and funny and confident. She tries to lie to me, and I can still catch her at it. There will come a time in the future when I will not be able to tell, but I don't want her to know that. I still remain all-comforting, all-knowing, able to fix everything. I know that this stage is coming to an end too.

So, I save the teeth. I keep them tucked away in the bottom of my cedar chest. As each tooth joins it's fellows, she steps closer to becoming the young woman who will roll her eyes at me, talk about what an embarrassment my clothes are, or makes disgusted noises when her father and I kiss each other.

And these teeth, the teeth that nipped my breasts while nursing, that kept us all awake through terrible nights of teething, the teeth that cannabalized a class of other one year olds; they remind me of the baby that the midwife handed to me.The baby that only lives at the bottom of my cedar chest and in my memories.

12 Baleful Regards:

roo said...

That was really beautiful.

Nancy said...

That was a lovely post. I haven't decided what to do when Big-A loses her first tooth. Now I'm leaning toward keeping it. :-)

24/7 Mommy - That's me said...

That was a wonderful post. I had thought about what to do with my sons teeth when they come out and I will certainly be keeping them.
I also kept his stump - I could not bring myself to throwing that away. We spent 9 long months connected to each other.

Cindy said...

O lost a tooth on Sunday, he left a note for the tooth fairy, "plz leef my tooth I want it for show and tell" So I did, but it will end up in the jewelry box....

JenfromBoston said...

sweet post.

roo said...

I have a friend who took her formerly impacted wisdom teeth to a silversmith, who made them into earrings. She's Goth, so the look works for her...

marshatm said...

This is beautiful, and made me cry, too.

(Is this what happens in the blogging universe, that after awhile we'll start syncronized posting? Sort of like when all the college roommates started getting our periods at the same time?)

Elizabeth said...

When my husband's Grandma died last year and we helped pack up her house, we found she had saved every one of both her sons' teeth, glued to an index card and labelled which tooth it was. It was very sweet.

HollyRhea said...

I remember rooting around in my mom's jewelry box. I loved to look at her pretty things. When I was about 12, I found the little velvet envelope with all of my baby teeth. I felt loved.

V said...

My daughter didn't have a hair-cut until she was 5 years old and Of course, I kept a lock of her baby curls still hanging on the ends of five year old hair. Now she thinks I need to keep some everytime she gets her hair cut. It's so sweet and so clear that it makes her know how much I value her that I didn't let that hair go. But, if this keeps up, soon I'll be a hair collecting freek! Actually very soon, I'll be joining the ranks of teeth collecting freeks too...3 loose at once. And I know I'll cling to them too....when she's changed so much that I can only glimpse little hints of the baby she was.

Erica said...

My grandmother saved my baby teeth and a lock of my hair from the first time it was cut. I didn't think that much of it when I saw it as a teen, but now? Now I get misty-eyed just reading your post and thinking about it. I'm glad I'll get to see her during Thanksgiving-I'll have to look through all of my old baby things and cry some more-since that's all I seem to do lately!

Lisa said...

That sounds pretty perfect of a place to me.

 
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