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20 Sep

Vita Brevis, Tooth Longa

Here’s the thing about being a working mom: I miss moments in my children’s lives. Moments like this one:

I wasn’t there for the loss of that tooth, which in the grand scheme doesn’t seem all that important, except for that it does. I didn’t get to witness the first moments of this proud, gap-toothed smile in person. I didn’t get to negotiate the rate of the Tooth Fairy. I didn’t get to tell her in person, in the moment that it most mattered, that she has the most beautiful smile in the world.

I wasn’t there, and that matters. But it couldn’t be avoided, and it’s not the kind of thing that I can plan against, because life generally doesn’t roll according to a set plan. I can make all the plans in the world – cancelling meetings to see recitals, adjusting schedules to be home for dinner, keeping weekends clear for ‘us’ time – but those plans can’t accommodate all the gloriously unpredictable moments that make up a childhood. The loss of a tooth. An escape from school. Mastering the bicycle. The words, the glances, the gestures, the movements — the significant moments that only happen in stretches of insignificant time. I can’t plan to be there for those. That I don’t have that power hurts my heart.

But the moment of the tooth – the Moment Of The Tooth – is still one that I can share. Even if I’m not there — perhaps (perhaps) even especially if I’m not there. Because it becomes a story for her to tell me, and for me to tell back to her, and for us to create together: how Emilia lost her tooth, how Emilia told Mommy about it, how Mommy so loved hearing Emilia’s story about How She Lost Her Tooth, how Mommy keeps the picture and cherishes it, how Mommy’s life is made so much brighter, especially when she’s so far away, by that brightest of smiles, how Mommy gets to relive the story of How She Lost Her Tooth when she’s back home and snuggling on the couch with The Girl Who Lost Her Tooth.

And so we create this story together, regardless of whether we’re together or apart, and that story endures, and that, I think, is the narrative of love.