When I was little, I looked forward to the Tooth Fairy just like most kids. It never occurred to me to think about what the Tooth Fairy did with all those teeth she collected!
A while back, I found out. The Tooth Fairy collected those teeth out of the precious velveteen pouch and kept them safe. She guarded them in a special secret place. And when she knew I was ready, she gave them back to my mom. And when my mom saw that I really was growing up, she started giving them back to me.
Each time I had a momentous occasion in my life, my mom would give me a little package with a baby tooth in it and remind me that I was, indeed, growing up to be a woman.
I grew those teeth back in a time when I was innocent and naive. I grew them in a time when I believed that the world was FOR me – when I was wet, someone changed me; when I was hungry, someone fed me; when I was tired someone rocked me. I grew them in a time when I looked at the world through loving and pure eyes. I think that innocence and purity is sewn into the structure of those little baby teeth.
As I grew a little older, I began to see the world through different eyes. I learned that there were people who would be mean just for the sake of being mean. I learned that people got angry. People went away. People even died. I began to believe that perhaps the world was AGAINST me and I had to protect myself. This new “realism” began to push out the innocence of babyhood, and the purity and naivete held in those little teeth was pushed out by something stronger, tougher, but also more afraid. My adult teeth came in and my world view had changed so much that I never noticed the difference.
As a baby, we are completely vulnerable. As an adult who is reclaiming my innocence, I can stand in both strength and vulnerability. Those two things are not mutually exclusive; in fact, great vulnerability requires great strength.
A few months ago, my mother gave me the final baby tooth. It was a momentous occasion – the publication of my first book – and it seemed especially appropriate. We both cried. And now I stand on my own two feet, knowing that I can stand in the knowledge and wisdom of adulthood at the same time that I stand in the innocence and purity of the child. Because no matter what, I will always be somebody’s baby.
I was reminded of this story tonight at a Toastmasters meeting when the question was asked – what memory makes you feel warm and fuzzy? This is a memory that reminds me how incredibly loved I am and that – regardless of any other details – I have lived a very charmed life. I have my mom and the Tooth Fairy to thank.