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Another Altered Landscape

Maddie’s had a loose tooth for
around three months now, and we’ve watched her wiggle it for
so long it’s become a permanent fixture in our family –
Maddie’s Loose Tooth. It started to annoy the poor girl and I
tentatively broached the subject of giving it a little, ahem,
artificial aid in falling out, but Brian asserted that it’d
come out when it was good and ready.

This was all well and fine for a couple of months, but for the last
week or two the wiggly thing’s really been bothering Maddie,
to the point that she’d complain almost daily about it. So
Brian finally caved and we began tentative measures to remove the

Using a Kleenex, Brian held onto the tooth and wiggled it in every
direction for a couple minutes before giving it a good tug.
Nothing. I tried. Nothing. I pointed out timidly that
Maddie’s friend had tied her tooth to a doorknob and slammed
the door.

Nothing doing.

All the while, this tooth, which appeared
to be barely hanging on but was apparently cemented in place, was
blocking the now-visible adult tooth coming in behind it. Finally,
I called the dentist on Thursday; Brian was wondering if there was
a point at which we should come on in and have the dentist pull the
tooth for us.

“So, the tooth is loose and you can see the grown-up tooth
breaking the skin behind it?” the kind, grandmotherly nurse
asked me on the phone.

“Yep, that’s right,” I asserted, “And
we’ve tried wiggling it and giving it a little tug and
it’s not coming out and we were wondering if there’s a
point at which we should bring our daughter in so you can pull the

“Well,” the professional said laconically, “You
could bring her in and pay me a hundred and eighty bucks to pull
the tooth for you, or – and this is just a suggestion –
you could put on your big-girl Mommy Underpants and just pull the
tooth already.”


I pulled the tooth.

Maddie was so surprised she began shrieking with joy. “It
came out! It came out! I can’t believe it! I lost my first
tooth!” She ran downstairs to show everyone, then ran back
upstairs to see her empty spot, then ran downstairs again, then
back and forth to the mirror several more times.

Now, the going rate in our neighborhood for a First Lost Tooth is
five gold dollar coins. Yes, that was not my idea, but apparently
when your kid’s the last one to lose her first tooth you lose
the right to set the standard. Maddie knew the going rate for a
first tooth, but was none too keen on giving away her tooth: she
thought it simply too cool, too precious, and wasn’t going to
just turn it over to some stranger.

Maddie was so concerned about the tooth fairy, in fact, that she
asked me to take her tooth and “hide it someplace safe
– and don’t tell me where so she can’t get it out
of me.”


Friday morning I woke Maddie up and she smiled immediately,
anticipating her friends’ faces when they saw her new smile.
“Hey, is there anything under your pillow?” I asked

Maddie stretched sleepily. “No, remember, I didn’t want
to give away my tooth so there’s not going to be anything
under my pillow. But I’m ok with that. It’s worth it
not to get the five dollars if I can keep my tooth.”

I’m sorry, what? Could I just reach under your pillow and get
something back real quick?

But Maddie had already slid her hand under her pillow and
discovered a little bag full of five gold coins. And the shrieking
began again.

Several times over the weekend Maddie said, “I have to keep
telling myself that this isn’t a dream! That I really did
lose a tooth for real! I can’t believe it!” I honestly
didn’t know she was awaiting this milestone so much; I knew
that as the youngest of her friends and someone who didn’t
get her first baby tooth until she was fourteen months old, Maddie
would be the last of her gang to lose a first tooth. I guess I
didn’t realize how much she’d been waiting to
“catch up” to everyone else. Now, when you look at her,
she’s got the same gap-toothed smile of all her friends
– all of them one step closer to gangly pre-teens, having
left babyhood far behind and speeding towards adulthood
astonishingly fast.

But when I see Maddie’s smile now, I sometimes catch a
glimpse of her babyness, when her mouth wasn’t yet full of
teeth and her heart had never been broken.

I see that crooked smile, and I still find my baby in there.


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