Some of Henry's friends have teeth that look like picket fences running across their smiles, with each tooth spaced evenly, better to let the breeze blow through. Henry's teeth, on the other hand, are packed tightly against each other like tiny pieces of porcelain. So when he looked up at me last Saturday to tell me about his day, I knew just by looking that he had his very first loose tooth.
While his older sister had waited eagerly for her first tooth to fall out, I don't think Henry ever gave it much thought before I interrupted his story to ask if his tooth was loose. He stopped instantly -- and Henry never stops anything instantly -- and his eyes narrowed slightly as his tongue investigated. At a loss for an answer, he responded with a question of his own.
"I think your tooth is loose."
A sliver of darkness stood next to one of his lower teeth, and when I touched the tooth, it wiggled. Leslie and I were excited for him, but Henry didn't seem too interested.
Later that night when he bit into a sandwich during a class picnic at the park, he suddenly became much more interested. His tooth bent forward and blood dripped from his lower lip. Now he was scared. I think I've pulled out almost all of Alison's teeth, so I offered my services to Henry. He refused, and his tooth hung on for another day.
By Sunday afternoon I had had enough. He was complaining that it hurt when he ate, and when he talked to us, the tooth waved back and forth like a white flag of surrender. It had to come out.
But Henry wasn't interested. Not even the magical stories I told him about the tooth fairy could outweigh the pain he imagined, so I had no choice but to lie to him.
"Why don't you lie down in my lap here so I can get a good look at your tooth?"
"Don't worry. I won't pull it out. I just want to look at it up close, okay?"
Thirty seconds later the tooth was out, and Henry was smiling...
Later that night Henry tucked his tiny tooth underneath his pillow and asked me about the tooth fairy.
"Can I see her?"
"No, she'll come while you're sleeping, take your tooth, and leave a surprize."
Suddenly, he started to worry.
"But I don't want her to come! She might take all my toys!"
"No, don't worry about that. She'll only take your tooth."
"But she will wake me up!"
"No, she's just like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. She doesn't want you to see her."
"Yes, she's gonna wake me up!"
"She's gonna say, 'Henry, I'm taking your tooth!' And she's gonna scare me!"
I finally convinced him that everything would be okay, and he went to sleep.
He was awake again and in our bedroom at 6:15, earlier than he has ever gotten up, and he was complaining.
"The tooth fairy took my tooth, but she didn't give me anything!"
Leslie lifted her head and scolded me with sleepy eyes, but I hadn't done anything wrong. True, I had almost forgotten, but I had slipped a Sacagawea Golden Dollar under Henry's pillow just before I had gone to sleep the night before. I took Henry back to his room where we found the coin on his floor. He crawled back into bed with his reward clutched in his fist, and we all lived happily ever after.