Like gifts from little cannibals

P1020967 I played Tooth Fairy last night for the first time. It was a long-overdue milestone: Rowan lost his first tooth years ago, but until last night had refused to participate in the whole tooth-under-the-pillow thing. “I want to keep them,” he said, simply, the draw of the loonie or twoonie not strong enough to tempt him to part with a bit of his own body. “Besides,” he continued, “you’re the Tooth Fairy, anyway.” And I shrugged. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be the Tooth Fairy anytime soon.

Rowan doesn’t seem to feel the need to keep close track of his teeth once they’re actually out of his mouth; he just doesn’t want to give them up to some unknown, ethereal entity. And I can’t say I entirelyblame him. As a result, though, every so often we come across a tiny, bloody tooth in a little tooth-shaped box, maybe on the kitchen windowsill or his bookshelf. They’re like gifts from little cannibals, the parts they couldn't eat.

But last night, for whatever reason — financial, perhaps? — he finally decided to participate in the narrative, including the time-honoured family tradition of writing notes with several caveats and explanations to the Tooth Fairy. “I hope you can get some more teeth,” he wrote in his best cursive. “Anyways, I wanted to ask you if you could not take my tooth but still leave me some money. If so, thank you very much.” He signed his name, and then added his address, as well as “Ottawa, Canada,” and, “Parents: Rachel, Susan.” When I asked him why, he explained that there might be more than one Rowan, so he wanted to make sure that the Tooth Fairy knew that he was the one on our street, in Canada — the capital of which, naturally, is Ottawa — with his particular parents. I nodded.

I love lost teeth. I love loose teeth. I love their potential, the excitement, the wiggle and crack and even the blood and jagged gums. I know that some people get squeamish at the sight of them, but I’m right in there, offering to give a dangling tooth that final twist to wrench it out into the world, gazing fascinated and satisfied at the bloody, empty space. I especially love it when the adult tooth is already poking its way up like a crocus underneath. I love it when both teeth — baby and adult — coexist in the same spot for a while, a metaphor for childhood itself. I love the reliability of teeth: they are so sturdy, but no matter what you do they will loosen, they will make way for the next cycle. The new teeth will grow up underneath, replace them. “I wish I could still lose teeth,” I said to Rachel last night after slipping a twoonie under Rowan’s pillow and removing his note to keep forever and ever. “It’s like a little do-over.”