Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tonight, my daughter lost her seventh tooth.

The losing of teeth is a rite of passage. 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.

In my life before my daughter, I had never given a great deal of thought as to losing teeth and the dilemma it may pose 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 Emily 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? Transporting discarded body parts over state and fantastical lines?

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!"

"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 moral 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. Besides, I know most of you did it too.

It's a visceral reminder of her time in my body. As she grows older and more independent, 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. She will keep her own secrets, endure her own heartbreaks and wrestle her own demons.

Yet these teeth, the teeth that nipped my breasts while nursing, that kept us all awake through terrible nights of teething, the teeth that cannibalized 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.

September 10, 2007 Gimlet Eye

1 Baleful Regards:

Anonymous said...

I kept all of my son's teeth - including his wisdom teeth, his umbilical cord, his first fingernail clippings (ewww! i know!), and his first hair cut. He is twenty now. I am so glad now that I did keep those things. However, no one else knows that I have them because I think they would look at me funny. so, I fully understand your position here. ;)

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