January 17th and 18th, 2011.
My son is seven and a half. Today he’s losing the first of his front two teeth. He lost his bottom two a few months ago. In the second half of second grade, he’s a little late to lose his teeth. The way he looks now – pretty much the way he’s looked the past 4 years – is how I picture him always looking. I realize these are the magic years. The years of baby teeth. The innocence of those itty bitty front teeth. There’s this shift that takes place when the baby teeth go. The open gap still says little boy, but the chunky chiclets that follow just look like pre-adolescent boy to me. The magic time is almost over. The time of santa, elves and birthday angels. Tonite, in the bathtub, Elihu mused how he would be more specific next year when he wrote to Santa. He would give him better instructions for the elves to make wind up bath toys. He was sincere, and he was speaking very matter of factly about it. It seemed like he might be joking – but he was still very much there. I was grateful that he still believed, and grateful for one more night with his baby teeth in front.
Right now he is brushing those teeth. One is sticking out so much it can no longer lay flat next to the other. He looks like an ol’ hick. I told him that his nickname of “Eli” is a cliché hillbilly name, so it worked well right now. I can’t capture his new mouth in a picture, the shutter is too slow, he is too unwilling, and the lens always bows out his face so it never looks like him anyhow. I must just remember these days.
This morning, as he lay asleep in his bed, mouth open, I could see great black spaces between his front baby teeth. They were being pushed aside by progress. No longer did he even look like himself. He looked awkward. This was not my pretty boy. And most likely, today at school, while looking down at a math problem his tooth would succumb to the gentle movement of his absent minded wiggling, and just fall out. He would leave home this morning with his teeth, and come home later today with the wavy white ridges of his coming adulthood poking out of his gums.
It is a snow day. Elihu will not lose his tooth as he sits at his desk. He will not drop it accidentally in the snow. He is pushing it now, ‘salty blood, salty blood’ he cries and runs to the mirror. I join him.
It happened. Just now. We snapped a couple of pics of his goofy front tooth hanging out in front of his lip. I sat beside him in the hall, reviewing the photos we’d taken recently and Elihu fiddled with his tooth while looking in the closet mirror. Tink. We heard something land on the floor. “It’s out!” he said. And there it was, the sight I was still not yet ready for. The black hole. There’s no stopping this growing thing I guess. I give in. I’ve enjoyed every moment so far, and I won’t stop enjoying them. When I cherish each day as I do, change may bring a pang of nostalgia, yet it brings no regrets. A loss of something old makes way for something new. Here we go….