I heard the squeals and laughter and looked up to see Ainsley running towards me.
"Mommy, it fell out! It fell out!" she exclaimed.
She bounced in front of me with a big grin on her face. A grin that now included one less tooth. Clif helped her rinse her mouth of the blood and she placed the tiny, little chip in my hand. Then she headed back on the field to finish soccer practice.
I watched as she smiled and pushed her tongue through the empty space, over and over again. This day has been a long one coming. She is the last of her friends, classmates, neighbors, teammates to lose a tooth. She'll be 7 in a little over a month, and she's been searching for any sign of a loose tooth since the first week of Kindergarten. Most kids her age already have big adult chompers pushing through their little mouths.
I held the tooth in my hand. It was so small. It didn't look that small in her mouth. I searched my inside purse pocket for any holes, so sure I would lose this lost tooth.
We placed it under her pillow that night and the next morning she awoke $5 richer. I told her that the first tooth is special, so the tooth fairy brings the first tooth back to the mommies and daddies so they can hold on to it forever.
Kind of weird, right? To keep a tooth. Just like keeping those first little curls that were cut off her head. Sometimes I open the little box her blond curls are in and I feel them between my fingers. Remembering her as a bald, toothless baby. That silky hair doesn't feel the same any more. It feels more like my hair. Like grown up hair. Now she uses conditioner and brushes it herself. Her first tooth sits in a plastic baggie on my nightstand because it hasn't made it's way to the box yet. I stare at it every morning while I put on lotion. And I always think it's strange that I keep these things. These are essentially dead human cells, parts of a body, that I plan on stowing away forever.
But then I remember. I remember sitting in the back seat of Clif's car with her. We are leaving Nanny and Poppa's after a weekend visit. I rub my finger along her gums and feel that roughness. For the first time her gums are not pudgy and smooth and pink. This one little spot is hard and rough and white. That first little tooth has pushed itself through. And now that tooth sits for me to stare at every day.
And I remember...waiting for hair. Waiting so long for hair. I remember the first time I saw a curl at the back of her head as I rocked her one night. I remember getting ready for a Memorial Day party at my friend Tara's house and deciding that maybe we could pull off pigtails. Little, itty, bitty pig tails that really did curl like a pig's tail. And now those first little hairs that sprouted from that big shiny head, sit in a box surrounded by velvet, so I can run my fingers over them.
So yes, it's weird. So extremely weird...but necessary. Because one day, her mouth will have expelled all those little teeth, and she will have a beautiful smile filled with big grown up teeth. And one day, her hair may not be so blond. Maybe it will grown long and straight, maybe she'll keep it short and stylish. Little toes with jagged nails will become pedicured. Little knees with scrapes and bruises will be shaved and lotioned. Little hands with pudge and marker streaks will become long and lean. All these little things of her babyhood and childhood will be gone, erased from her face and her mouth and her head. But they'll stay in my heart and in my little box.