Teeth are a really big deal in second grade.
They are a regular topic of conversation at morning meeting – who lost one, who is currently losing one, who is getting a new one. They wiggle, they wobble, they amuse some and gross out others.
They are also the most reliable source of income if you are seven.
Sure, sure, you get cash for your birthday and First Communion money from the relatives, but the money you get from a tooth?
Well, that’s money you have earned, my friend.
You have given up a part of yourself (albeit willingly) in exchange for something else.
In my neck of the woods, a tooth under the pillow goes for about five dollars these days, I am happy to know that the value of this commodity is keeping up with the rate of inflation. With twenty teeth in each mouth, that adds up to a hefty one hundred dollars over the course of a childhood. Not a bad gig.
Unfortunately for us, we were forced into the five dollar tooth bracket way ahead of its time. One of our kids lost a tooth on a family camping trip out west, miles away from any hope of cashing in a larger bill for singles. After furtive and frantic late night rummages through our wallets, we resigned ourselves to giving up the smallest bill we had – a fiver – for the single tooth, thereby inflating the going rate by five hundred percent in one fell swoop. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but we knew right then and there we would have to match that price for the rest of our kids and the rest of their teeth.
(It might be appropriate here to note that the Tooth Fairy does not enjoy making deliveries to small pup tents full of sleeping children.)
You can tell a lot about a kid from how they talk about their teeth. There is the “I just yanked it RIGHT OUT!” type – they are generally your thrill seekers. Then there are the meek and tenuous, tentatively probing with fingertip or tongue, not wanting to fuss with it, opting to wait patiently until it drops out uneventfully. A few are anxious even thinking about the loss, thus the actual event itself is quite traumatic, and the possibility of accompanying blood makes it that much worse. Usually, the time-honored trip to the nurse’s office for a tooth treasure box sets things right in quick order. Lucky kids.
So, if you ever find yourself at a loss for what to say to a seven or eight year old, just ask them about their teeth. They’ll go on for hours, and even treat you to a close up, open-mouthed look – especially if they’re in online class with a camera front and center.
They’ll tell you how many teeth they have lost, and how many teeth they are still holding on to. And if you happen to find yourself in the senior plus years of life, you might find this tooth topic strangely parallel to your own musings, and conclude – with surprise – that you have more in common than you knew.