Earlier today, one of my sweet first grade boys started talking to me after school. We were hanging out up in the treehouse. In between talking, he would take a lick from his popsicle. Oh my goodness, I thought. I interrupted him, “Did you lose a tooth????” I had been gone at work all weekend. And he had been at school all day. A part of me experienced a huge flood of relief when he began to wiggle one of his bottom baby teeth back and forth with his fingers. Then, he creepily pushed it all the way forward and all the way back with his tongue. It gave me the heeby jeebies. I knew that wiggly tooth was just barely hanging on and that our first tooth fairy visit would be within days. I felt a sudden urge to take a couple of pictures of him with his baby teeth smile. The smile that soon would be different. Older.
Oh, man, here come the permanent teeth.
Permanent. That word. I’ve never been the greatest about holding onto physical, tangible reminders of my children’s youth. Like clippings from their first hair cuts. Or even writing down the exact day, time, and place where they first walked. Or said their first words. I do tend to remember moments. Emotions. Feelings. When my boy ran out of his room tonight shouting,
“MOM! DAD! I lost my tooth!” we quickly ran up the stairs.
And I will always hold tightly onto this memory. The look on his face of pure excitement and also disbelief as he held up the tiny tooth. While looking for a container to store his tooth, he dropped his baby tooth on the front porch. At 8:45 at night. I began desperately picking up odd white looking dirt specks. And tiny rocks. Seriously. We couldn’t find his tooth. We HAD to find that missing tooth. I had all three boys step inside so I could look around. Sometimes, I think these crazy unexpected things happen to put one of those neon, sticky page markers on my memory. Memory triggers. There I was down on my hands and knees looking for the first lost tooth. Literally, a lost tooth.
When I found it, I held tightly onto the tooth until we secured it into a tiny tooth container to await the tooth fairy’s visit. Ironically enough, the plastic tooth holder my son so proudly placed his tiny tooth in previously held my fancy expensive crown. For one of my “permanent teeth.” Later that night, after my husband filled his tiny tooth container with a few bucks, he handed me the tooth. I held it up in my big hands careful not to drop it. I looked at it. And I just couldn’t throw it away. So, I taped it inside of a jewelry box. I guess I needed the physical reminder. A reminder of one of the sweet little first white baby teeth that poked through when he was a bright pink-gummed, grinning, drooling baby. His baby tooth represents a touchable, physical reminder that my boys are getting bigger. Losing their baby teeth. Growing up.
Their body is pushing out those tiny “baby” teeth that have served their purpose. They’ve chewed their first bites of food, bitten my fingers, shoulders, legs repeatedly and their dad, bitten each other, Nerf Gun bullets, foam balls, nickels, quarters, and SO many other toys. But most importantly, those perfectly tiny teeth have helped communicate a million different kinds of smiles, giant open-mouthed giggles and laughter. I’m hopeful that his permanent teeth will continue to do the same. Only bigger teeth should amount to even bigger smiles, right? Smiles that will be contagious, life-changing, genuine, helpful, and representative of his passion and joy for life. A joy ignited at a very young age. And a joy that I hope will continue to shine through those teeth. Those permanent teeth.