When my daughter cut her first tooth — well teeth, really, because those two bottom teeth appeared in tandem — I cried for the end of the toothless, gummy smile. For me, this was the first tangible evidence of change. It meant the advent of solid food and independent consumption of nourishment; the end of breast feeding (although I “milked” this for awhile longer). The beginning of life apart.
Eventually, though, I grew accustomed to new teeth appearing. I discovered I was equally enchanted by smiles filled with little, pearly teeth.
The First Tooth
The Coming of Dentyna
Time passed. My daughter was growing up and she only had a few baby teeth left. Shortly before her 8th birthday the question came. As I tucked her in for the night, I could see something was on her mind. Pensively, she lay there while I smoothed blankets and arranged her favorite stuffed animals.
Finally, haltingly and with reluctance, she asked, “Mommy, are you Dentyna?” In her expression was hope that I would deny it and apprehension that I could not, but in her eyes was knowledge. She didn’t want it to be true but had passed the point of denial. She’d been compelled to ask the question — had steeled herself to receive the answer. I owed her honesty.
I admit I was tempted to keep the fantasy going a little longer. It was so precious, so fragile — a soap bubble. But only one answer was possible. Anything else would have been a betrayal and an even deeper loss.
“Yes,” I said. “I’m Dentyna.”
We looked at each other for a long moment. I knew the tears I saw on her cheeks were mirrored on mine. I crept into bed with her and held her close.
That night, we did all the night rituals — even the ones she had mostly outgrown. We did the “loves” (Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you, your grandparents love you…) and I sang her the lullaby song I’d made up for her. I even recited Goodnight Moon (is there a mother who hasn’t memorized that book?).
That night, we said good-bye to Dentyna and put away another piece of her childhood.
Her final baby tooth never did fall out. The dentist said it probably wouldn’t, because there was no adult tooth to dislodge it. I like to think that’s the Dentyna tooth — the one that represents the link between childhood dreams and adult realities.
Dentyna returned, one last time, to mark my daughter’s official transition into adulthood. She left behind a tiny letter of wishes and farewell. As Rachel touched the minute envelope with the tip of one finger, memories swirled around us, delicate and sparkling as fairy dust. I looked at my daughter, now a poised and confident young woman. For an instant, through the blur of tears, I glimpsed a gummy baby smile.