Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bye Bye Baby

For years now my son has been asking, with some trepidation, about losing his first baby tooth. "Will it happen soon? Will it hurt much? Will I bleed? Will I get sick? What if I swallow it by accident? Has anyone ever choked on their own tooth?" he worries. "What if the new tooth doesn't come in right? What if the place where my tooth was stays empty forever?"

I lost my first tooth at age five, biting into an apple. (I did swallow it, actually, much to my chagrin. I did not choke. I did not even notice the tooth was gone, in fact, until several minutes later, when a teacher pointed the fact out to me. It's a good thing my mother happened to know that the Tooth Fairy decorates her house with pictures of teeth drawn by those unfortunate children who have lost their lost tooth, or I would have considered the incident a much more serious injury to both piggy bank and pride.)

I assumed, in that casual way parents tend to assume that our children will be just like us, that my son would probably lose his first tooth at five, or thereabouts. But he didn't lose a tooth at five. He didn't at six and a half, either. My son is nearly seven, but all twenty of his original pearly whites still stand in neat rows.

At school, one after another his friends have lost teeth. Some have lost several, now bearing adorably jagged half-grown-in grins.

Witnessing in his classmates this repeated proof of his mother's assertion that baby tooth-deprivation is not, in fact, commonly deadly to children has, I think, made my son somewhat less anxious about the potential for some personal tooth-loss related disaster.

But he is now the only one in his class who has yet to lose a tooth. He sees himself missing some bloody badge of maturity. His difference irks him. When we last went to the dentist, he asked her, nervously, "Are you sure I really have grown-up teeth waiting in my gums? What if there aren't any?"

This drawn out drama of the teeth has made me wish hard, for months, that he would just lose a tooth already and get over it. So he can see it's not that big of a deal. So he can be like everyone else in his class. So the Tooth Fairy can leave him two quarters, or a dollar, or whatever the inflated price of first lost teeth is these days, and he can start calculating the value of his remaining teeth with a gleam in his eye.

When I help him floss I surreptitiously tap his front teeth, hoping for a wiggle. I've never felt one. Not even the slightest wobble. Until three days ago.

His right front bottom tooth budged. I tapped it again to be sure. It moved again, unmistakably.

The boy officially had a loose tooth.

Again and again, I've imagined how proudly and cheerfully I would tell him. I've imagined how I would stave off any frightened tears with visions of the respect of his peers, the admiration of younger children, and cash.

Instead, I found myself turning my head and furiously blinking against a sudden vivid vision: my first glimpse, more than six years ago, of the top of my baby's first tooth, pushing in a sharp gleaming white arc through the gum. His first tooth. This same tooth. The loose one.

"What is it Mommy?" he asked.

"Oh," I said. "Oh. Your tooth. Your tooth is loose! You finally have a loose tooth. See? It wiggles. I bet you'll lose it pretty soon. Your first tooth. Your very first one. That's good news! You're growing. You'll get grown-up teeth soon."

"Oh, that's cool," he said. "It won't hurt too much, when it comes out will it?"

"No. I've told you already," I said. "I mean it. It won't hurt much at all."

I lied. It won't hurt him.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Nearly three weeks ago I came down with a cold that I have been not at all hyperbolically referring to in public as The Cold From Hell. Despite a few days now of feeling finally able to breathe during daylight hours without the blessed aid of Saint Sudafed, certain symptoms have lingered. My ears still feel clogged. I still feel tired. And my voice keeps failing me unexpectedly mid-word, cutting out like a bad audio cassette tape. 

Last night I hypothesized that my failure to recover must be the result of not getting enough sleep at night. Because despite feeling better during the day, I keep waking up struggling to breathe through a nose that feels stuffed with wet cotton, or coughing the sort of chest rattling night cough ordinarily associated with elderly chainsmokers.

So in an attempt to get at least eight hours of decent rest, last night I abandoned my bed and my husband (who is certainly handsome to look upon as the last thing I see before I close my eyes each night, but, sadly, snores like a rusty chainsaw). And I bedded down on the sofa, propped diagonally atop a pile of scientifically arranged throw pillows.

I felt more comfortable than I had in days, and fell asleep almost instantly. 

So of course, at 2 a.m., the phone rang.

At first, in my first-good-sleep-in-three-weeks fog, I associated the harsh ringing sound with the tornado sirens that woke me up this past Sunday evening, announcing the storm that did this to my porch.

There's something wrong with the house, the small, awake part of my brain tried to explain to the rest of me. You have to get up.

Then as the ringing continued I awakened enough to realize that the sound was in fact the telephone and also that it was a ridiculous hour for anyone to be calling my house unless there was some sort of terrible emergency.

So I threw off the covers and popped out of bed, er, couch, only to hear the answering machine pick up. A deep, drawling drunken man's voice screamed, "WHAT?!?" so loudly my answering machine's speaker crackled. And then the line clicked off.

Wrong number.

(I hope. Because if that was some sort of prank, Mr. Drunk Dialer on a Cell Phone in 636, you need to go back to phone pranking class and learn how to block your number. Ahem.)

After that I had a hard time getting back to sleep. The streetlights outside my living room window were too bright. The furnace downstairs was too loud. I tossed and turned for about an hour and then I fell asleep and I dreamed two dreams. It feels like ages since I've had a dream I can clearly remember. And yet, whether thanks to my couch, The Cold From Hell, or Mr. Drunk Dialer, last night I had two: 

In the first dream, I was volunteering at my son's school on a field trip. It was lunch time and I was helping to prepare a set of boxed lunches that had been brought along for the kids but I realized that despite telling me otherwise no one at the school had contacted the catering company or read the ingredients on anything to see whether or not the lunches were peanut-safe. So I was reading the ingredients on every variety of lunch to see which one might be safe for my son to have. And people from the school in the dream (who weren't actually people in my son's real life school, just people with vague and anonymous faces) kept telling me, "You have to take care of this problem this yourself. We don't have time to help you." And then as I was sorting through the boxes one of the sandwiches fell out and it was peanut butter. And I tried to get to the sink to wash my hands but other parents (who again, weren't actual parents I know in real life but some sort of Platonic stand in) kept blocking me and saying "We were here first. There's no room."  And then one of the dream school's administrators said to me, in a smarmy voice, "Well it will be a shame if your son has nothing to eat today, and it would have been terrible if we had served him that peanut butter. But at least this is the first time we have made such a mistake." And as I stood there wringing my hands like Lady Macbeth trying to get the peanut butter off, I started screaming, again and again, to no one in particular, "THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE!"

It was very melodramatic. And, I have to say, the first time I have ever had a nightmare with food as a villain.  Or for that matter a dream that in any way involved peanut butter. I get the feeling, however, that this anxiety dream might wind up as a permanent replacement to that recurring dream I used to have where I would spend all day on the first day of college trying to find my classes and yet somehow manage to miss all of them and then my advisor would scream at me and tell me I was kicked out of the program.


The second dream was much better. In my second dream I was at a BlogHer conference, sitting in the audience at a panel, and some political argument broke out among the audience members, and women were standing up and shouting and one well-dressed young woman even gestured a threat to splash another with a bottle of Fiji water.

(For people who have never been to BlogHer, allow me to note that this sort of bloggers-gone-wild wet t-shirt catfight thing would NEVER HAPPEN. Well, except for maybe at the MamaPop party but that would be totally acceptable.)

And then in my dream my friend Erin Kotecki Vest stood up, looking as healthy as she ever has, and walked across the entire large room to a microphone and made some sort of brilliant, unbelievably logical, earthshaking statement of the sort that makes sense beyond sense within a dream and seems to expose some important cog in the inner workings of the universe, even though you can never remember, after you wake up, exactly what was said. And everyone grew silent and then burst into applause. And everyone was hugging.

I don't believe in prophetic dreams. But a dream of mine ever deserved to come true I do think it would be my dream of Erin, healthy, walking, and kicking rhetorical ass.

Besides, if a politics-based water splashing fight ever broke out during a panel at BlogHer, I think it would be great publicity, don't you?