"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Baby Teeth

Toby has lost most of his baby teeth by now. I've watched his mouth grow and stretch over the last months, and along with that have watched his little puppy teeth be pushed out by big dog teeth meant to provide him sustenance and protection for the next decade or so. As near as I can tell, he has four baby teeth left. His canines. The fangs. The Dracula teeth.

Sometime during his fourth week of life, according to what I've read, 28 little teeth more or less simultaneously appeared in his mouth. During his fourth month the permanent teeth began to  push the babies out. He will have 42 big dog teeth when the process is finished. 

I've wondered about the fact that these four needle sharp weapons of defense are the last to leave Toby's puppy mouth as it becomes dog mouth. As long as they are in place, his mouth is a dangerous place to be in or even near. Once they're gone, even with more and bigger teeth, his mouth will be a place where a hand or a kitten or a dead bird might rest safely without fear of any more harm than a thorough saliva bath.

This is a being who has  not had serious need of defending himself in his short life. Yet he came equipped with fangs that mean business even when he's playing. I have a scar on the palm of my hand that appears to be here to stay. He was playing ferociously one morning. My hand went the wrong direction, the tooth just happened to be there, and I was instantly punctured. Blood flowed. I cursed. He was sorry. 

That was an accident. If he had intended harm, it would have been much worse.

He came to me with those four particular teeth. He came with built-in protection that works pretty much without his conscious intent, and that protection is staying with him to the last of his puppyhood. 

I wonder if my baby canines will be leaving soon. Those internal sharp points that protect me still from those who would do me harm. Never mind that the little girls whose protection they are,  who were so deeply wounded and in need of defense, have long since been comforted, nurtured, and healed. Never mind that the adults who inflicted the wounds have long since lost their power over those babies, and in fact have long since lost any power they once held.  Never mind that my adult being longs for a soft mouth that delivers only love and kindness and truth.

My adult being longs to be a safe place for tender hands, babies and soft hearts

I seem to have lost all my other baby teeth. The tiny milk teeth that helped me keep a grip on whatever might sustain me. The grinding baby molars that broke life into pieces I could swallow. Only the sharp, pointy, front-and-cornered canines remain. These are the teeth that draw blood if needed, shred flesh, puncture enemies. If I have no enemies, it seems time to let them go. This most powerful defense has served me well, but there are new teeth pushing hard to take their place. 

As I check Toby's mouth each morning, in part so he'll be used to my hands there, in part looking for loose teeth, I push against each of the four tiny needle sharp canines. I can see the adult teeth just beginning to bulge behind them. Any day now, I'll have them in hand. 


Jerri said...

This piece is a marvel of perception and of writing, Deb. A marvel.

I wish for you dull teeth. Sounds silly, but it's true. Dull teeth and a brightly lit path.

Suzy said...

Stunning writing and metaphors.

Baby teeth to digest what was given or not given to us for sustenance, until we had grown into our adult teeth in order to fend for ourselves.

Tougher teeth to "digest" tougher issues.

Love you.


FrecklesandDeb said...

Here's to the loss of our sharp, defensive teeth and to the birth of our soft, rounded replacements that gently hold our dreams in their harmless embrace.

Your comparison is brilliant, as usual, Deb!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto!

Those baby teeth served you well, but they no longer do. Period. No judgment, just the end of a relationship that has come as far as it can go.

kario said...

Those teeth will drop out when they are ready. This healing is such a process of ebb and flow, cycles of warmth and health into pain and depth. You will know when it is time to lose those teeth. In the meantime, I love that you have such reverence for the way they have served you.


Anonymous said...

This piece is beautiful, the connections to the teeth is brillant.

I hope you are at a peaceful place in your journey where the the sharp teeth are no longer needed. A safe, protected place, with only soft and gentle bites.

M said...

I love your parallel between Toby's baby teeth and your own "baby" teeth and the recognition that you no longer need them. My prayer is that you continue to heal from the pains of your past. I hope that as you continue to "mature", just as Toby does, that you find peace and safety that parallels all that you provide to your baby.