Just Write: A Little Tooth

March 12, 2012

Participating in the lovely Heather King’s Just Write at her blog The Extraordinary Ordinary today!


The little tooth was the final straw that cracked my heart wide open.

There were already plenty of fissures there, in that heart, because the day was supposed to have been so much different. Maybe that’s how I always fuck myself, this expecting of things, this vision of seamless days that let’s face it, are never seamless and full of so many small joys and aches that it hurts your brain just thinking about it.

Mama and Daddy were coming for lunch: joy

The girls were peevish and unsettled because of the time change: ache

I had to go to the grocery store for lunch supplies because I’d been disorganized: ache

I got my favorite checker at the grocery store, Batman Bob, and he told me about his Lego Batman addiction and it made me laugh: joy

When I got home, my husband was reading to Miss M.-“Dot and Jabber and the Mystery of the Missing Stream,” which in itself is joy but then he said, “Hey honey, look! It’s a book about prostate problems!” which was so geeky and so doctory of him that it was double joy and mitigated the ache of having to put away the groceries.

Miss D. had a meltdown about the upcoming CSAP tests at school this week because her teacher is so serious about it that it’s scaring the bejeezus out of my kid, this kid who used to think she was bulletproof: ache

The arrival of Mama and Daddy and shrimp and chardonnay and the sound of Miss M. in the computer room, asking Grandpa to help her decide which to do her report about–the Arctic fox or the Arctic hare?: joy

Little joys and little aches, little everyday fissures. The thrum and the bang of drums of days.

And then the phone call from across coasts, from the friend you haven’t heard from in a few months, the friend who guided you through the awkward hallways of junior and senior high school, the friend who made you feel okay even when you knew you were a freak, the one who knows your underbelly and your shames and loves you anyways. A call from that girl is always: joy. But.

She doesn’t sound like herself, and in gulps and fastfastwords you learn that her mother, the one who made you banana muffins and offered yogurt and enough Hungry Howie’s pizza to span an interstate, is now a widow.  That mother, who guided you through almost enough teenage hazardous waste as your own overburdened Mama did, is alone.

I mean, I’m overstating. She’s not alone, really; she has three daughters who live all across everywhere, and of course there are phones, and computers and Hell, if you want to get ancient, even envelopes that require stamps. But there’s an alone that’s so quiet that it sneaks up and gobsmacks you, like a kitchen in the morning, when you set the coffeemaker to brew four cups, but you startle and realize you need only two.

You crouch in a corner and talk to your friend, and ride the tilt-a-whirl together. You do this, but you ignore the lunch and your family that’s traveled to be with you and the fact that we’ve decided on the Arctic hare.

So you hang up, snot-ridden, and apologize to the loved ones at your table for being an asshole, which you are, because shouldn’t you have saved this for later, when you could have played a game of Headbands or Pictionary? But you didn’t, and they are open-eyed and understanding and worry when you don’t eat your lunch.

A few hours later, when they’re gone, I mourn the time I’ve lost with them. The ones you love who come, and listen, and try and pony up and play. I call to apologize, but there’s no need.

“He was 79,” I tell Mama. “They were right in the middle of planning this huge party for his 80th birthday in a few weeks. But 80 is old, right?”

“Your dad is 78, honey. You know that?” she says.

No, I didn’t know that–nor did I want to know it, but in a way, it makes me grin, because we all know that Daddy-O will outlive us all, Chi-Dog in hand. I remind Mama of this and we laugh, because laughing about things you are certain of feels good.

Emotionally spent, I take my crying eyes to the bedroom for a nap.

Two hours later, when I come down, blurry-headed, without a compass, there’s a celebration in the kitchen.

“Look! Look!” Miss M. says to me, eyes wide in delight.

In my hand, she places a tooth. A tooth so small it’s a shard; a shattered shell on the beach, like the ones we cut our feet on when we walk in Mexico.

“I yanked it out myself,” she crows, fist in the air.

I am not even listening to her. I am looking at the gap. The gap of my last baby’s first tooth.

Suddenly it’s all too much for me, this growing and the going and the land mines in between. I take the tooth, put it in a plastic  bag, and Jesus, it’s so white and so perfect. It is young.

It’s so young that the girl who lost it doesn’t even know about land mines, and that’s why when she finds a crisp new dollar under her pillow, she thrills and still has faith.

{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

Katybeth March 12, 2012 at 8:01 pm

The tooth is often very lonely.

Congratulations on this milestone!


Arnebya March 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm

That aloneness. The not quite but still aloneness. I’m sorry for your friend’s mom and family. The art of circumnavigate the minefields can be a debilitating process. An unexpected, didn’t see it coming, damn, that fast? process.

Our tooth fairy said the union wasn’t doing shit for her and until a new contract was ratified outlying efforts to remind when she was needed, she’s not coming back.


Papa Guy March 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Perfect…I mourn the day with you.


Abby March 13, 2012 at 4:11 am

Every time I read your posts I am again in awe of your gift, my friend. Your family, your friends, your readers…we are all a bit richer for having a tiny piece of you in our lives. With the mush crap out of the way, let me say that my mom recently came across a tiny little baggie with my first two teeth in it.

She cried. Again. And then laughed because it was in a bag from the Nut Bar, my (late) grandpa’s business, and it brought back so many fond memories. This is a big step, but the first of many great memories to come ;)


TKW March 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

The “Nut Bar?” God, I love you, Abby.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon March 13, 2012 at 5:11 am

My heart aches, and my eyes tear, reading this.


Sherri March 13, 2012 at 5:48 am

Gorgeous story in such a heart-breaking way. I have received a couple of calls like this over the past few years – now have two friends who are alone (and I felt that too – I did – really felt that way – like…. what to do now – so young, so far away…..) – my mom too, though my brothers live close, she only makes lunch and dinner for one now…… My best friend’s mother….. Too much in such a short period of time. I was reeling for a while. So many good memories flood back in these instances, but such a feeling of obligation creeps in too… or I should have been doing more all these years. Weird. You do have a gift for capturing moments and feelings perfectly. My heart goes out to your friend and her family. Can’t help but chuckle picturing people with those Headbanz things on their foreheads waiting for you, though. Yin and yang – ebb and flow.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes March 13, 2012 at 5:52 am

Epic, truly epic. Also sad and beautifull. Much like losing a first tooth.
Congratulations for Miss M.


Phoo-d March 13, 2012 at 6:30 am

She pulled it out all by herself?! What a brave plucky soul!

My childhood best friend lost her dad suddenly this last year a day before her 29th birthday. It is always sad and hits you hard no matter when it happens.


TKW March 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm

29? Holy assholery. At least I’m an old crone–29 is just damn unfair. Hugs to her, virtually, of course, because you know I don’t engage with people. xoxo


Stephanie Hanes March 13, 2012 at 7:43 am

Oh my…I don’t know much what to say other than THIS is the perfect picture of the beautiful mess that life can be, isn’t it?


Camille Brightsmith March 13, 2012 at 8:19 am

Aren’t those tiny teeth the oddest little things? I am so thankful for you on so many levels Kitch. Thanks for reminding me to pay attention to the little things….


TKW March 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm

I think you do that just fine, the paying attention–actually, you are amazing at celebrating the little moments–the jumps on the trampoline and the crazy face paint on Max, and Chloe going gangbusters with the lip gloss.

I mean, I made you a coffee and English muffin with blueberry jam and you said, “This is such a treat!” #gratefullowmaintenancewoman #freindsforever


Jenna March 13, 2012 at 9:07 am

You have this ability to consistently give me the shivers (real live goose bumps) with your last sentences. I love the endings you give your stories.


Barbara March 13, 2012 at 9:08 am

Yep, that’s right. Life is filled with aches and joys. And no matter how old you get, it’s the same. You worry, you laugh, and you make the best of things.


Norlaine March 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm

What a wonderful style you have! I want to tell you how great I think your writing is… but I am sitting at my computer, sobbing huge horrible gulping sobs. Thank goodness no one is around because I don’t think I could explain why. Your writing really moved me.


TKW March 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm


Nice to meet you, and thanks for the kind comment. I hope you’ll be back.


SuziCate March 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Oh Kitch, I love the way you weave the tales of life. Sorry about your friend’s dad…our parents often seem invincible. My dad will be 80 next month. A few weeks ago my sister called and couldn’t reach them. Come to find out my dad and mom who is 78 were out cutting fire wood…can you believe that?!
Congrats to youngest on losing her first baby tooth – hugs to you.


Pamela March 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Oh the thrum and bang of days. My days are never seamless either. I am so sorry for the sadness. And the fact that we get old and die. I am wrestling with this one as I write this …


TKW March 15, 2012 at 8:37 pm


If you need someone to listen, I am here. Unsure what is going on; hope it’s not wreckage on the home front, but no matter what, my hand is open.


Tiffany March 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Seriously, I’m a crying mess over here. Your writing is just so heartfelt…and I GET this completely. This is one of my all-time favorites.

p.s. This: “Miss D. had a meltdown about the upcoming CSAP tests at school this week because her teacher is so serious about it that it’s scaring the bejeezus out of my kid, this kid who used to think she was bulletproof: ache” made my teacher’s heart break. Hang in there Miss D—from a teacher—it’s just a flippin’ test!!! ;)


TKW March 14, 2012 at 12:50 pm


Joy: Miss D.’s teacher from last year told her to come by first thing in the morning every day of the CSAP’s, just for a hug and a little pep talk. Dear God, what amazing things teachers can do.


Paula March 14, 2012 at 7:25 am

Congratulations to your daughter who pulled the tooth out all by herself! Love it!

Can’t comment on the rest–can’t go there today.


TKW March 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm


You okay? Let me know if you need an ear, or a hug, or anything…


Jennifer March 14, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I ache.


Mr TKW March 14, 2012 at 2:48 pm

You chronicled that bipolar day with brilliance, honey..


TKW March 15, 2012 at 7:20 am

Damn, it was bipolar, wasn’t it?


Heather March 14, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Oh sweetie, my heart goes out to you and your friend. I’ve had these days – the ones that you can’t figure out if you’re going to cry or laugh or both or none. I’m so glad that your family loves you so.
And way to go to your sweet little thang for pulling out her own tooth! Keegan has been holding onto his top two for what seems like ages. They will both go at the same time – I’m sure of it. And I will cry buckets because my baby is growing up. Feeling your pain.


Privilege of Parenting March 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm

I love how you evoke community while acknowledging the stabs of lonely that haunt us all, offering the possibility of compassion and connection, maybe even that sort of gratitude and love borne fully only of times of alienation and isolation as we tend those tender to us and make our souls in the bargain.


Justine March 15, 2012 at 8:42 am

Oh Kitch. To say I know exactly how you feel would be an understatement. Your words are perfect. Your joys and aches, so real I could feel them in my own heart.

I love how kids can make us see the joys even when they elude us sometimes.


Heather March 15, 2012 at 11:12 am

Wow how I love you and your staggering works of genius. This is just beautiful and so FELT. xoxo


Elaine A. March 15, 2012 at 11:42 am

I just came over because Heather complimented you on your writing on twitter.

And DAMN. She was right.

This is an amazing post about the ups and downs and little/big moments of life. Just wow. I need to read more over here…



TKW March 15, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Elaine A.

I’m so glad you came over. There’s been a lot of hard over here lately, but I promise, I can be funny, too. Hope you will come back.


Jane March 15, 2012 at 1:48 pm

My heart is in my throat, my stomach in knots. So much emotion in this post. Hugs to you, dear friend, for it all. The joy and the heartache.


Jana@AnAttitudeAdjustment March 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Wow, wow, wow. (I mean it. You’re practically Jennifer Egan. Start writing a book, will you?)


TKW March 15, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Jana (ducking head in shame),

Who is Jennifer Egan? I am obsessed with wiping tears and butts. But I do want to know.

Help the girl who has 10% of her working brain…Please?


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm

You must check her out Kitch. My recommendations – Read The Keep and A Visit From The Goon Squad.


Naptimewriting March 15, 2012 at 10:28 pm

When we were younger, the joys were all consuming. And they lasted a week. And the aches were all consuming. And they lasted a week and a half. Everything was so big.

And they’re still big, but you know what? They each last fifteen minutes because there’s less free space around each joy and each ache. They crowd each other and shove and push and bicker a bit about who gets our attention. And it takes a COLOSSAL joy or GARGANTUAN ache to break through and demand that space. And it still only gets 30 minutes, an unblinking stare for which we pay with guilt and missing the joys and aches that scream by at light speed.

Because that’s what middle age is.

So here’s my question. At 79-going-on-80 do we go back to the space in which joys and aches get some elbow room and their due attention? At 78-sure-to-live-to-120 can we spend some damned time looking at our joys and wallowing in our aches? Because as the roller coaster that is middle age speeds up—as the dozens of people whose lives are intertwined with us experience triumphs and diagnoses and betrayals and successes—I feel like I can’t pause to look the joys or the aches square in the face. If I do I might miss one, if I do I’m not honoring the others, if I do I’m missing the point of being alive and middle aged and intertwined.

Is that just me?


TKW March 16, 2012 at 11:59 am

“I feel like I can’t pause to look the joys or the aches square in the face…”

I get it. Because they’re all blasting around you at the same time, aren’t they? The joys and the aches and the chaos and the messy details.

Maybe, if we’re lucky, we can sit our 79-year old butts down together on a porch one fine Spring afternoon, share a lemonade, and laugh at the joys and wallow in the aches for hours.

Consider it a formal offer. A date.


nicole@muranoplace March 16, 2012 at 1:24 am

this nice article.I’m just remember my childhood…well thanks for shearing this …i love it..


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri March 16, 2012 at 4:26 pm

I get so much of this. And sometimes the pendulum swings between joy and sadness are unbearable. Sending hugs.


idiosyncratic eye March 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm

All I can say is, awwww! :)


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The experiences you are able to compress into sharp bursts of sensory texture — reading them is like biting into a pomegranate seed or letting a morsel of dark chocolate melt on the tongue. But instead of just flavor, it’s emotion and memory and the rawness of being. What a day this must have been.


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