As a kid I dreaded loose teeth like funerals. I would go through all of the Kubler-Ross stages, wiggling them to test them and then trying to convince myself a tooth wasn’t really loose. I would bargain ‘Are You There G-D it’s me Margaret’-style, to let me be that special person who doesn’t have to lose their baby teeth. Maybe it had something to do with my father threatening to tie my loose teeth to a door and then slam it. He always coaxed me into letting him check how loose the tooth was. I would fall for it everytime, inherently wanting to trust his word.
“Just let me check if it’s ready. I won’t do anything, I’m just gonna check.”
“No! I don’t want you to – you’ll try to pull it.”
He would laugh like he always did when he was scaring me. Somehow I always relented. I can still feel his father-sized fingers reaching into my mouth, and always wiggling the tooth too hard to just be checking. From that vulnerable position, despite struggling, I could not get away.
As I got older I got good at keeping my loose teeth to myself. I knew I could handle it better without him, and I did.
The last baby tooth came out while I was in the back seat of the family car, driving along the winding harbour highway, eating bubblegum ice cream. Without a word I dried off the tiny tooth with a kleenex, carefully wrapped it up, and slipped it unseen into my coat pocket. I returned to my ice cream, my eyes fixed on the deep blue of the harbour.