Family / Kids / Parenting

A Tooth in the Hand IMG_3182Both kids had been excused from the table but Luisa and I remained to enjoy the last bites of our delicious meal and some quiet conversation. Suddenly, Zeca appeared beside me and thrust her hand into my line of sight, closed in a fist as if she had a surprise for me. I looked at her smiling face and then back to her hand which she opened, revealing a bloody tooth. “You owe me a buck. You also owe me a buck for the tooth I lost when we were in New Orleans.”

I took the bloody tooth from her hand and placed it on the table and returned to my stir fry. I speared a pea pod and said, “I don’t have any cash. I owe you two bucks.” She accepted my verbal IOU and scampered away.

Motherhood can be gruesome in an everyday sort of way, and you just get used to it. I’m not yet mentally prepared for the day when my kid walks up to me and asks me to take her to the dentist to get braces. However, it helps to know that there are plenty of resources available on the internet and that there is no shortage of clinics offering orthodontic services for kids (you can click here to learn more).

The first time Zeca lost a tooth in public we were at the Glee Live concert. One minutes she was standing there staring at the stage and eating a cloud of cotton candy as big as her head and the next minute, she was handing me a bloody tooth and asking me for a Kleenex to stop the bleeding. That was the first time I had to figure out what to do with a human tooth when in a public place. That night, I put it in the change pocket of my bag and forgot all about it.

Until I took out change to pay for ice cream a few weeks later.

The young man held the cone as I pulled change from my bag and sorted through the coins looking for exact change and then I saw it–the forgotten baby tooth. My head shot up to look at him and yes–he had seen it. I laughed nervously, “Oh my god! A tooth! Well that’s weird! Let’s forget exact change!” He was too young to fathom a life in which you carry children’s teeth around in your bag.

That day, I vowed to rid my life of the accumulated baby teeth. Why do we keep them anyway? Keepsakes? Are we really going to sit in our rocking chairs when we’re 90 and take out an envelope of human teeth to keep us company on our walk down memory lane? Are we going to give them to our kids when they are grown? “Here is your first pair of shoes…your favorite book…a ziplock full of teeth…”

I threw all the baby teeth away and then for a few months after that, I kept finding a straggler here and there–one on the desk in the foyer (shoved into a corner), one in the little tray on the bedroom dresser, a stray from school in a tiny manilla envelope. It’s not that I intended to keep them all. It’s just that I would take possession of a tooth, think, “What the hell am I going to do with this?” and then put it aside to deal with later. That’s how I inadvertently ended up a baby tooth hoarder.

After receiving Zeca’s most recent tooth, I took it into the kitchen to throw it away. Luisa said, “Are you just going to throw it away?” I said, “Yeah…unless you want to make a necklace?” Shockingly, she did not want a necklace. So, I pitched it. I mean, it’s fair enough to say that if I visited a Kids dentist in Monrovia or wherever else to have my child’s tooth removed, they wouldn’t keep it at their clinic and hang it up for visitors to see, would they? They’d probably put it right in the bin, too. Where fallen teeth belong, to be brutally honest.

We are way past the Tooth Fairy (though we still pay out) and it seems I’m past the feeling of fondness for these tiny teeth, even though they are tangible signs of my youngest child growing up. The only question that remains is–what did I do with that tooth she lost in New Orleans? I’m sure it will turn up when I least expect it, hopefully not when I’m pulled over by police for a broken taillight. “Hello Officer! Yes, here is my driver’s license–oh! And a human tooth. Ignore that.”


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  1. I have a jewelry box full of teeth. I ignore it because 1) I was sure it was wrong to get rid of it and 2) let’s face it; a box of teeth on your dresser is fucking weird.

    So I can just throw it away? Kit and Kaboodle?

  2. Deborah Goldstein says:

    I can’t tell you how long I contemplated things to do with our kids’ baby teeth. “What would Martha Stewart do?” I asked myself. Bedazzled handbags? Teeth-filled, hand-painted maracas? Apple head dolls with bridgework? And then I threw them all away because I suddenly felt a bit queasy.

    I feel much better now, thank you.

  3. “…unless you want to make a necklace.”

    That’s some pretty sassy stuff right there. You must be a joy to live with.

  4. Two tooth stories from school: first, there was the little girl whose tooth fell ino the aquarium as she was feeding the fish. Second, there was the girl who was walking home with her precious tooth in a tiny transparent plastic box. When she got home – it was gone! Her heroic father retraced her footsteps to find the box in the drifts of autumn leaves. Unfortunately, he was unable to set out until he returned from an evening rehearsal of the play in which he was appearing. So at 11PM, he was rummaging through the leaves, lighting his way with his car headlights. Yes, he found it.

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