Monday, June 16, 2008

Rite of Passage

When Cate, my firstborn, lost her first tooth it was a big event. The build up was grand. There was fear, joy, tears, laughs. We knew it was loose for so long - she skipped between dread of pain and elated anticipation of, well, cash under her pillow. She was 6 years old. When it finally came out, we were all wrapped up in the holiday that peaked with the 6 quarters under her pillow in the morning. Cate's celebration continued on Monday when she could finally get her name on the 1st grade graph of missing teeth. I even remember that it was December 8th because we'd placed bets on it.

Yesterday, Father's Day, my second born lost her first tooth. Without any ado at all. This is one of those times when the magnitude of difference is completely in focus for me.

Addie is not yet 5 years old and has a diagnosis of Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome.

On par with those with RTS, Addie has a particularly small mouth, chin and jaw. We'd noticed that her beautiful little chicklet bottom teeth were becoming a bit crowded. But she is not one to let you have a good look or feel in there - she's got some serious mandible strength. You learn to get glimpses when you can.

Just before surgery at the end of May they asked if she had any loose teeth. We sort of chuckled, not that we know of, smug that at her age and size, of course not -all that excitement was yet to come for her. That was 2 weeks ago.

Cate and I had some top secret Father's Day errands to run (yes, last minute, too) yesterday. We came home to find my husband, Michael, and Addie - just up from her nap - enjoying the beautiful weather in our back yard. Michael nonchalantly mouthed to me something about Addie's tooth. I didn't quite get it. When I got closer he said that tooth we'd noticed had changed position was gone. Sure enough, I grabbed her little mug and wrenched her lower lip down. Before she shook me free, I saw the space where that little kernel of rice used to be.

Michael said he looked everywhere, but could not find the tooth. He did not know what I knew - that finding an RTS lost tooth was a rare feat indeed, as many are lost during sleep and swallowed. My mentors on the RTS list serve had regaled many a tale of disappearing teeth - some venturing to scout them out in diapers later, some researching how easily such things are processed in the human digestive system and letting it go at that. We are part of that later camp.

After taking in that little space in Addie's smile, I was stunned. But my natural reaction to all things 'child' took over. I got the camera and took over 70 pictures over the next 2 hours, in search of the most elemental documentation of this great (?) thing that happened.

Once I finally got the photo that told the story (my side of the story, that is - the one that says a milestone was hit. Though Addie looks happy in the picture, it has everything to do with being the bath and nothing to do with the missing tooth), I was free to think about what happened. Addie, my baby, lost her first tooth. And she was 100% completely unaware of it. I wouldn't be begged and bothered to find the tooth fairy pillow. She would not ask me to read the book again about what happens when you loose a tooth. She would not question what the tooth fairy wants with all those old teeth. She would not dream of how to spend her quarters. She would not ask me to take her to the local mom and pop "we sell everything" store, Winkies, as the quarters burn a hole in her pocket.

Michael remarked that it sort of forces you to get a grip on her age and that the differences between other kids her age will become more and more apparent.

Just as I was mulling all this over, deciding how to feel about it, my older daughter tripped over her own words, eager to lay out the plan for us. She would write a note to the tooth fairy. She would explain that the note was under Cate's pillow because Addie has pica and would probably devour the note before the fairy could read it. In the note she would also request that the quarters be left under Cate's pillow for the same reasons, but that Cate promises to get them directly to Addie in the morning. There would be a post script on the note after the thank you. It would read "Tooth Fairy. You know how I haven't lost a tooth in a really long time? Could you help me to lose one? Love, Cate."

Cate knows about Santa, she knows about the Easter Bunny and so I assume she must know about the Tooth Fairy, though we did not have a talk specifically about her, as we did for the others. But she probably also knew that I needed some help with my own faith at that moment, so she did what she does so often - filled in my gap.

The note was written, deposited under pillow and exchanged for 6 shiny quarters. Cate showed the windfall to Addie when she woke up. Addie pushed it away in favor of a cup of water to drink and play in. Cate set the quarters on the table and told me to put it in Addie's yellow bank, not her red and white one, because there is more room in the yellow one.

Like my own mother, who I thought was a lunatic for doing it, I have saved all the teeth collected. There is a little bag with Cate's name on it in a secret place. I added a bag with Addie's name on it and yesterday's date, but leaving it empty didn't feel right. I rummaged through my jewelery making materials and found a tiny clear crystal bead. I will put one in the bag for each of Addie's lost teeth. One day I'll attach them to a delicate silver chain for a necklace - she and I will share it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Long Road Home

Nearly 2 weeks after surgery, I am ready to say that Addie is on the mend. She took the long route, by way of pneumonia and collapsed lung. She is still pale and tires easily, but a short return visit to her home element did her wonders this weekend. She has arrived: