Friday, September 04, 2009

Sentimental value

My daughter lost her second tooth today.

Last night while brushing her teeth, it hung at an odd angle - askew from the rest of her teeth - and I knew it would not be long. I told her, "You will lose that tooth before you go to school on Tuesday."

It fell out of her mouth - literally, with no effort from her - before breakfast this morning. She wrapped it carefully in a bright pink drawstring pouch and put it under her pillow, anxious for tonight's visit from The Tooth Fairy.

Tonight, I slipped my hand under her pillow, thankful that she sleeps like a log, and exchanged the tooth for a crisp dollar bill and a note reading, "Nice tooth! Keep brushing! Love, The Tooth Fairy." Then I retreated into the kitchen, tiny tooth in hand.

What now? I pondered.

I know from talking to my friends that there are some moms who are not so sentimental about these matters and who would have tossed the tooth into the garbage without another thought. But for better or worse, I have a hard time releasing "things" that mean something to me, or did at some point in my life. Just last night I poured through my attic in search of old college relics in preparation for an upcoming reunion and was shocked to find what I'd saved from elementary school, high school and college.

So I stood there in my kitchen rolling the small tooth in my palm, thinking.

Not so many years ago, she fought for that tooth. Always a slow teether, I recalled the weeks and weeks of drooling and chewing. The many nights of restless sleep. The cold washcloths and Ambesol given to her to bring relief until it finally broke the surface.

We stared in wonder and awe when this tooth - the bottom center, one of her two first - made its appearance. It transferred her smile from a gummy one to a toothed one. We marveled at this. Beamed about it. We ran our fingers over it's pearly top and cooed, "Such a big girl, you are."

It marked a new phase for her: More solid foods. Crawling. A sliver of independence.

When she lost her first tooth, I dropped it into a small plastic bag and placed it carefully in the back of my top drawer. It was, after all, her first lost tooth. A big one. No question there.

But does every tooth need to be saved? There is something a bit strange and perhaps even morbid, even for a sentimental sap like me, to keep a bag of teeth in my drawer for the next 18 years. I mean, to what end? To give them to her someday? I can just picture the look on her face.

"Um, gee, thanks? Mom?" followed by her promptly tossing them into the trash herself as soon as I'm out of sight.

Yet, I recall the day I found some of my own baby teeth wrapped in tissue in the back of my mom's jewelry box. I don't know how old I was, but when I found them I recall taking them out and rolling them between my fingers, fascinated by how small they were compared to my adult teeth.

I remember the mix of feelings. Horror: Oh. My. God. She saved . . . my teeth!? And love: But she saved them. Because they are mine. Because she is my mother and I'm her daughter and she wanted to hold onto them. Because she wanted to stay connected to them somehow. Because she loves me.

Even then, I was a sap.

Now, once again, this tooth and the change it brings to her smile marks a new phase: Kindergarten.

On Tuesday, she will get on a bus at the end of our driveway - alone - and go away from us to a new school with many corridors and big kids. It is a momentous step toward independence.

So with that in mind, I walked down the hall to my bedroom, and plunked this tooth, this symbol of babyhood, into the bag next to its twin. I do not know at what point I will stop saving them.

But not tonight.


Out of curiosity, what do YOU do with your children's lost teeth?

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Blogger Karen said...

Hi Kim, Once again your blog brings me to tears. Just seeing Audrey's little face makes me think of Emelia... that's about what she looks like now... and to think that she'll be popping a tooth soon and wondering what will I do when she looses her first. It's going by so fast already. I'm pretty sure I'll be saving them too... esp considering that I still have the dried up stump of her umbilical cord!! It's a part of her!... the part that connected her to me for so long.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Lady M said...

Loved your story.

There are some things (of my own) that I get rid of right away, otherwise I'll have to keep them for the rest of my life.

I don't know what to do about the baby teeth, although we have at least a year or two to go on that one. I think there may be a tiny jar with all of *my* teeth in a box somewhere (gross and sentimental at the same time!).

12:14 AM  
Anonymous mayberry said...

A couple of them were never recovered after they fell out. We saved one or two of the others and beyond that ... well I think we threw them out. It's hard -- I mean, I had a hard time throwing away their bellybutton scabs!

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Denise D Wright said...

Sweet story - I, of course, have them saved in the top drawer of my dresser. ;)

10:41 AM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Whatever you do, just don't leave them where she will find them ;) I found mine in my mom's jewelry box! Her comment? Why was I in her jewelry box?!!

Anyway, that was a sweet post.

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have every single one of my daughter's baby teeth - in a special box inside my jewelry box. She's seen them and had pretty much the same reaction you did when you saw your mom had saved them. First it was "ewww", then she was fascinated by them...holding them.. laughing about how small they were...then she got a little choked up and asked me why I'd saved them. So, go ahead and save them all. They can always be thrown out, but they can never be retrieved.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

I have not reached this stage yet..but knowing me I will keep them somewhere.. :)

Kim, this story was precious..

12:35 PM  
Blogger Amy's Mama Drama said...

I have almost all of my Peanut's in my underwear drawer. At 7 1/2 she asked me "honestly" about the tooth fairy and I told her it was me & daddy. She was oddly happy, and asked if I had kept the teeth. She was thrilled when I pulled them out. Go figure?

She vowed not to ruin the tooth fairy for her sister (who is still a ways away from that stage).

I loved your story. Thanks!

3:02 PM  

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