FIONA LOONEY

KITCHEN SINK DRAMA

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - Don’t miss Fiona Looney’s bril­liant col­umn with her unique take on mod­ern Ire­land, only in the Ir­ish Daily Mail ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

And so, with a wave of her cal­cium- en­riched wand, the tooth fairy has left our home for­ever. I didn’t even know that this last tooth was THE last tooth, un­til The Youngest men­tioned that the den­tist had told her last month that this wob­bly, wor­ri­some mo­lar would be her last. Sixty small teeth have now left the build­ing. I counted them in and, I sup­pose, I must have counted them out again. But they are funny things, baby teeth: not only do we not re­mem­ber los­ing our own, but I also hon­estly can­not ac­count for that many of my chil­dren’s ei­ther. Sixty! As the young peo­ple say, how’d that hap­pen?

I re­mem­ber the aw­ful ones, of course. The Boy’s first, vi­o­lently blown out when he fell and smacked his mouth against a rail­ing at the swim­ming pool. He wasn’t yet three, and there he was: a lit­tle solid chunk of a tod­dler, with a bloody gap in his mouth. Need­less to say, the tooth fairy went nuts that night. Not just money, I re­call, but toys too... the kitchen sink, if she could have ex­tracted it and placed it un­der his sod­den lit­tle pil­low.

There was the tooth that was ac­ci­den­tally swal­lowed — The Boy again — prompt­ing a long and un­nec­es­sar­ily de­tailed let­ter of ex­pla­na­tion for the fairy. Some­how, that episode re­sulted in us dis­cov­er­ing that it is pos­si­ble for tooth fairies to dive to the bot­tom of the sea and ex­tract teeth from, well, you get the idea.

There were the ones the fairies for­got. In­evitably, they fell out on Satur­days, a night on which, co­in­ci­den­tally, wine is usu­ally con­sumed in this house. Once, a tooth re­mained un­col­lected for two nights, prompt­ing an­other let­ter and an apolo­getic and very tiny re­ply. And although the fairies were not as gen­er­ous in this house as they were in some oth­ers, a lot of money changed hands. The first few teeth were worth €1 apiece, which quickly rose to €2 for trick­ier, older spec­i­mens.

The one that came out in con­tra­ven­tion of the laws of na­ture was worth a small for­tune and any that caused sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems or pain usu­ally mer­ited a full €4. Per­haps be­cause the fairy knew that she was on her last visit to our house, the very last one went for €6. And

‘I might have been im­mune to dirty nap­pies – but the whole baby-tooth thing brought fresh hor­rors ev­ery time’

in all that time, I never, ever got used to it. A tooth never fell out that didn’t send a small shiver of re­vul­sion down my spine. That flash of fresh crim­son in a per­fect lit­tle mouth — it did it for me ev­ery time. The ones with the bloody pulp still spilling over their jagged edges ac­tu­ally made me gag. I might have be­come im­mune to dirty nap­pies and small pools of vomit, but the whole baby-tooth thing brought fresh hor­rors ev­ery time.

So you might think that I would be glad to see the back of it. You might think that, as I ex­am­ined the small, semi-de­cayed tooth in the palm of my hand the other day, I’d wish it and all its fel­low of­fend­ers god­speed. But there was some­thing about that tooth; some­thing that made me want to hold onto it just a lit­tle longer than usual, be­fore wrap­ping it care­fully in a pris­tine tis­sue and giv­ing it to The Youngest to place un­der her pil­low.

Maybe it was be­cause the older two never ex­pected their last baby teeth to be col­lected — or maybe they did, and se­cure in the knowl­edge that there was a younger child in the house, I have sim­ply for­got­ten.

Or maybe it was be­cause we some­how man­aged to get all the way to 60 teeth with­out hav­ing to have a sin­gle awk­ward con­ver­sa­tion about the lit­tle peo­ple who col­lect them. It is, I sup­pose, now not be­yond the realm of pos­si­bil­i­ties that my chil­dren will have chil­dren of their own be­fore it oc­curs to them that the busi­ness of baby- tooth dis­posal might be just a shade more com­pli­cated than they’d pre­vi­ously be­lieved.

Ei­ther way, I stood a long time in The Youngest’s bed­room door­way that night, watch­ing her sleep. I don’t know if I was hop­ing to catch a glimpse of the tooth fairy or if I was just re­gret­ting the fact that there has been magic in this house for more than a decade and I pretty much took it for granted.

Joni Mitchell was right: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. By the fol­low­ing morn­ing, the tooth had van­ished. And right there, for the sec­ond time in my life, the loss of one of my chil­dren’s baby teeth made me cry.

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