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Gummy Boy

With a new baby, there are a lot of delicious little parts to captivate a mom. Those tiny fingers are irresistible; the chubby feet are soft and kissable. But, for some reason, the little part that always held the most wonderment for me was those tiny pink gums. And a toothless baby smile? My biological clock trembles at the memory.

I always felt wistful when the first tooth appeared. That sweet little pink ridge of gumminess was suddenly broken up by an intruder. No more toothless grins.

But that’s okay, because with the baby tooth comes the early childhood years, and could there ever be a sweeter time? T-ball and first dance lessons and learning to ride a bike – oh yes, those are priceless days.

That time passes quickly, of course. No sooner does a mother get used to that mouth full of teeth than they start falling out, often in waves.

My seven-year-old son Joseph had some especially hard-working gums last week. First it was a front bottom tooth, then its direct partner on the top. And then the other top front tooth started wiggling. Joseph began working on it in earnest – he was a man on a mission. Managing to have three holes in the front of your mouth all at the same time is no small feat of dental logistics. He crowed, “If I pull this one I’ll have a hole in front! I’ll be able to drink through a straw with my teeth together!” It’s the stuff dreams are made of when you’re seven.

Days and days of tooth wiggling made the tooth looser, but (to his dismay) it would not come out. He was so desperate he almost let his big brother talk him into tying the tooth to a doorknob, something I assured him only really works in Three Stooges episodes.

But it turned out we didn’t need any gimmicks; what we needed was a second-grade teacher. One afternoon after school last week, Joseph bounded out to the car, eyes shining and face flushed. His lips were pressed tightly together, waiting for the perfect moment in the drama to flash me his new smile.

“Mithuth Jackthon pulled my tooth,” he explained. Oh, my heart, he has a lisp now? How much cuteness can a mother’s heart be expected to bear?

I leaned in for a closer look.

And there it was. It was an instant flashback. That same gummy grin I sighed over years ago was looking right back at me, though this time its bearer isn’t a baby, but a boy, with smelly sneakers and permanently banged-up knees.

But I’d still know it anywhere.


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