Oh my God. Oh my God. I juggled all of the things, including Emily, wiping blood from her face to the front of her jacket while digging through the backpack- no wait, my purse- looking for my phone, which would not turn on or work right, which did not contain the programmed number of the dentist, which did not have sufficient Wi-Fi to search the internet for said dentist number. Emily stood beside me, screaming. I told her it was going to be okay, but I could not look at her for more than an instant, the sight of her injury too grisly for me to behold. I found the dentist number and jabbed at my screen with uncooperative fingers. "It's an emergency," I told the receptionist. "My daughter just fell and broke her teeth. Please take us now!"
Emily was trembling when I picked her up. Back to the car, I ran us and our bags and our bloody baby wipes and a bottle of water I had managed to unscrew and assist her in sipping. I strapped Emily in to her car seat, my hollow reassurances filling the air. She quieted as I started the car and got us going, her eyes staring straight ahead, empty and dulled.
It's just teeth, I told myself. She's fine. It's no big deal. It's nothing. She's healthy. It's just teeth.
But I remember my own just teeth, from twenty years ago. I was much older than Emily, alone at the public pool when I smashed my face into the bottom of the deep end and chipped my front incisor. Instant hysteria. By the time I collected myself and walked home, I was a sobbing mess. I yelled for my dad to wake up, as he had been sleeping after working the night shift. "LOOK! My tooth!" I told him, and he stared at me for what seemed like an eternity through tired, worn eyes. He did not say anything other than "Huh" as he examined my newly busted face, and I was suddenly awash with a horrific fear. This is just how my face was going to look now. Nobody was going to take me to get this tooth fixed. I was fourteen years old. I had my whole life ahead of me to live with a jagged, ugly smile. Now I would never have a boyfriend!
"Call MOM!" I screamed at my father, his lack of action frightening. "Call the other adult in this house! PLEASE."
Emily and I made it to the dentist, my little girl walking into the lobby on unsteady feet shod shamefully in shoes with loosened straps. The receptionist was calm when she greeted us, failing to acknowledge the urgency. We were seated in a room after a few minutes, and the dental hygienist was also infuriatingly calm. "I'm not sure what the dentist is going to do," she murmured. "Sometimes we just leave them. When you called, we thought the situation was a lot worse."
"Well, I mean, I know it's just teeth," I replied, squeezing my hands together. "But we can't just leave them. THREE of them are broken! Her smile! Her beautiful smile. She's only two! She's not going to lose these teeth for at least three years. Heck, my almost six year old still hasn't lost any teeth and he falls straight down on his face literally once a week."
"I understand," she said. "Let's just see what the dentist says. Perhaps we've talked enough."
The dentist swooped in a few minutes later, a white blaze of straight toothed glory and lab coated confidence. There was talk of bonding, of tooth repair, of making things right where they were now so horribly wrong. To my dismay yet understanding, they asked us to leave and come back tomorrow for a full appointment. I agreed, making the dentist promise that she would not close up shop in the middle of the night, taking all of her dental tools and associates with her. I asked to see the office's financials. I may have forced her to do a pinky swear. My daughter's teeth. We needed them fixed.
|Baby's first dental appointment.|
Not the way I pictured it.
We spent the next twenty four hours in a state of waiting, with popsicles and cuddling and promises. I did a thorough reliving of my own tooth bonding experience, of the many years of dental strife that followed. And I found myself thinking, not for the first time, that parenthood is simply a retelling of one's own childhood, with different twists, turns, and perspectives. A reinvention, perhaps. I have been through most of these traumas before, in earlier chapters, this tooth disaster plus all of the others. Things turned out somewhat okay for me. I am trying to make them turn out somewhat better for my children. I am trying to reconcile the relationship from childhood to parenting, constantly.
The next day, Emily's teeth were fixed. I was so proud of Emily, laying there in the chair and following directions perfectly from the dentist. Open your mouth. Bite down. Stay still. She went through the whole procedure better than me at fourteen, and my heart swelled with too much love and protection. "No apples," the dentist told me as we were paying, our ordeal having come to its relief. "Don't let her have anything too hard." And I nodded along and thought to myself, no submarine sandwiches from The Patio Restaurant in Tinley Park. Because that's what knocked out my own bonding, years after the pool incident. Of course, something will knock out Emily's bonding too, most likely, before she fully loses these baby teeth. It won't be a submarine sandwich, probably. But it will be something like it, and it will make a sort of parallel sense.