Quiet Teeth

© 2011 David Parker

I discovered my own teeth in my mother’s jewelry box when I was seven. I kept it a secret, not wanting to ask why she had them because I didn’t want to hear her speak the words to me: I am the Tooth Fairy. As if words make things true.

I remember visiting my dad’s dental office in the weeks that followed–my brother and I would run through the hall donning face masks, popping gloves at each other. In the lab there was a wall full of tiny drawers that held hundreds of mouths cast in white and yellow. Impressions. So many teeth. And it seemed almost impossible that the world could contain all of the teeth that had ever fallen out to make room for the teeth living in peoples’ mouths. I could think only of my own quiet teeth tucked away in a drawer among my mother’s large and loudly colored earrings of the early nineties. Standing before that wall of teeth, I was overwhelmed by how many trips the tooth fairy didn’t make.

Curious, though, is that I don’t have a single memory attached to losing any teeth. I can remember the way they felt against my tongue when they were loose, I can remember the holes they left behind, but I cannot remember losing a tooth. I know the Tooth Fairy visited me, but I can’t pin down a specific memory of it. So the Tooth Fairy didn’t become important to me, really, until it became an un-truth.

I don’t know if it began the day I made that discovery in my mother’s jewelry box, or maybe I discovered the teeth because of something inside of me, but it is true that for a long time, I’ve been looking everywhere–sifting through my sent mail, digging in the glove compartment, checking my coat pockets, opening drawers long-closed, picking up water glasses and searching through them from the bottom. Where is the un-truth? Or, when did what was true–so true–become un-true?

Last night, Ruthie lost her tooth at dinner and ate it. So we drew the Tooth Fairy a map of where in her belly it might be, and, after she’d fallen asleep, I stepped inside this un-truth as I deposited two dollars under her pillow. She was disappointed the fairy got away without leaving a trail of fairy dust behind. I was relieved that there were no teeth to hide.

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3 thoughts on “Quiet Teeth

  1. Love love LOVE this post. Particularly these lines: “… it is true that for a long time, I’ve been looking everywhere–sifting through my sent mail, digging in the glove compartment, checking my coat pockets, opening drawers long-closed, picking up water glasses and searching through them from the bottom. Where is the un-truth?”

    And the fact that you drew a MAP to Ruthie’s stomach for the TOOTH FAIRY? Beautiful. Can you please give me creative mommy lessons?

  2. Your daughter, in all of her adorable-ness, proudly showed me the empty space in her mouth where she lost her first tooth, today. “Mrs. Chelsea, look!” Mouth gaping, tongue protruding. I made a big deal, but before I could finish she said, “I lost it. Then I ate it.” I laughed, and then Ms. Kelley asked if the tooth fairy came. “Oh, yeah.” I think the tooth fairy was an after thought for her, this time, but I think she’ll always remember THIS tooth.

  3. Your writing is unrelentingly amazing and you are remarkably gifted. Carly turned me towards your blog a year or so ago and I’ll drop by every few months. I marvel at what you can evoke with words. We’re in Montgomery, but I long for my boys to have a literary education the likes of which they offer in Auburn. I know its markedly better than the White Station that bred all of us.

    Josh Roberts

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