I was minding my own business; conducting the every-other-Saturday ritual of mowing the lawn in front of our Colorado Springs home, when the cute little gal from across the street emerged from her garage, saw me and came darting across the street — I thought, to greet me. But, of course if she had a simple greeting in mind, it’s doubtful I’d find the event worth writing about, so no, something more was in store.
Because I lack the means of getting her permission to use her real name, I’ll call her “Amelia”, and this adorable, six-year-old bundle of smiles and enthusiasm had all the charm of a much younger version of a woman who is one day going to rule a world full of devoted male admirers. The jury would still be out on what the females of that world will think of her, but I doubt they will be so willingly subjugated.
At the time, my oldest, a son aged seven, had survived at least one bike crash that I claim was due in large part to the charming Amelia, who came out to ride with him and so thoroughly distracted him that when it came time to stop before T-boning the curb — somehow, she was more interesting than his brakes. Ooo – that had to hurt. “Okay, Amelia, I need to clean him up. We’ll see you later. . . “
I wonder if they make bike helmets with blinders?
So, when I realized that I was about to enjoy some kind of purposeful visit from Amelia, I turned off the mower, because whatever she wanted, it had to be more interesting than my lawn and, recall my note above about her arsenal of charm. I was, by definition, interested in hearing whatever was on her mind.
“Hi Mr. Wilson,” she said broadly smiling and oozing charm. “Can I ask for a favor?”
I grinned, knowing better than commit to anything she wanted without many more details.. “Amelia. You are always welcome to ask anything. I just don’t promise to always answer or agree. What’s up?.”
“Oh it’s easy.”
Uh-huh! This is certainly not a setup, I thought sarcastically.
She then used a finger to pull one side of one cheek open to show me her teeth. “Owy, ‘eed ellp pooling ah loozz ‘ooth. Hee?” and she lifted her chin so I could look down into her tiny mouth.
“You want me to pull out a loose tooth?” Of all the things I might have imagined she might ask for, I doubt this ever would have occurred to me. “You might want to just let it work it’s way out. They are designed to work like that.”
“No, I want it out now please.”
“Let me see it again.”
She again pulled her cheek and opened wide for me to look in and think of what I was going to do with her and this odd request. “Ish, this whon,” she sorta said, as she wiggled the molar for me to see.
The task looked do-able, but she was not my child and this sounded like something her mom might care about so I thought securing mom’s permission might be my out. “I need your mom to tell me if she’s okay with my doing this for you. Is she home?”
Amelia lived with her mom and aunt. I never knew the story of her missing father but his absence had left me as her nearest dad-like figure, and I always worried about doing things that might normally be done for her by her dad. This sounded like one of her wilder ideas anyway and I doubted her mom would agree.
Amelia agreed to asking and shot back across the street and disappeared into the open garage.
I felt like I’d waved off a potential problem and was just getting ready to pull the cord on the mower when Amelia and her mom reappeared in their garage.
“Hi Gary.” Mom waved. “Thanks for agreeing to yank Amelia’s tooth. I can’t bring myself to do it.”
I didn’t know how to answer other than to wave back, “No worries. I just wanted to make sure you were okay with this.” Mom bent over and said something to Amelia that I couldn’t hear, then turned Amelia back towards me and pressed some invisible go button and the tiny Amelia shot back to my side of the street. By this time, I more than suspected Amelia really only had two speed settings, asleep and running as fast as she could for as long as she could. In seconds she was back in front of me, so excited, you’d think I giving her a couple of ponies, a quart of chocolate ice cream and a piggy-back ride for all of next week instead of pulling out a tooth.
Such a strange child, I thought. Do you also act this when you go to see a real dentist?
“Okay Amelia, Let’s talk about this a bit. You know this is going to hurt?”
“I’ve lost teeth before. It’s not too bad.”
“You know it’s going to bleed – right? Maybe a lot.”
“I bleed from owies all the time. I’m not afraid of a little blood.”
At this point, I ran out of scary questions and realized that now I had to decide how to do this. My wife was gone shopping so it was just me and the kids who were in various parts of our yard. There was no way I’d be taking Amelia inside to perform the procedure and I’d missed the chance to ask her mom to use their place, plus that sounded like a hassle moving my whole gang over for the few minutes this should take, As I washed my hands from the yard hose, I decided, Nope – we’re going to do this right here in the yard where anyone could walk or drive by and see that I’m not trying to kill this child.
I counted myself lucky that I had a fresh clean hanky in my pocket so I pulled it out and sat down on the grass. Amelia laid down in my crossed legs. She promptly situated herself and leaned back with her mouth wide open.
As I looked into her mouth, I thought, I so wish I had the cell phone that I’ll have in 2021 because this would make a great story photo.
I located the tooth with fingers sorta wrapped in hanky and gave it a wiggle. Not very loose yet. “Are you sure Amelia? It’s not very loose yet and this is going to hurt and bleed a lot if I pull it out.”
“I’ll be okay.”
“Okay then. Let’s do this.”
She leaned back and opened her mouth for me again. Like any other kid her age, there were already other tooth gaps which made this extraction a bit easier but it was awkward trying get a hold of the target tooth. I reached in and found the best way to get my thumb and forefinger around it and gave it a sharp twist, thinking I might get lucky on a first good try. I could feel, and almost hear, the tooth breaking loose — but it did not fully break free. What did come free was a lot of fresh, warm blood. . .
“Ugh” murmured Amelia as she made a couple of small fists.
Oh man! I thought as the blood began to pool in her cheek.
“Amelia, it’s not done yet, Spit the blood out onto the lawn so we can finish.”
She did and quickly laid back, “Ready,” she quickly announced as anyone else who was immune to both pain and blood might.
I adjusted the hanky, which was quite a mess already and struggled to reacquire a good grasp of her tooth but finally found it and lifted it while giving it a strong twist the opposite direction and a quick reverse twist to feel it finally snap-crackle-and-pop itself free.
And just like that I had a handful of one very bloody hanky, one molar freshly separated from it’s decaying roots and one very happy six-year old girl smiling and spitting more blood onto my lawn while squirming out of my lap to stand and claim her prize – the liberated tooth.
To her all that blood and pain, not to mention the very public display of some questionable front-yard amateur dentistry was all irrelevant. She ignored it all and held the tooth up and proclaimed loudly, “All right — that’s five dollars! Thanks Mr. Wilson,” and she quickly darted off, apparently to claim her bounty.
I was left sitting on my lawn, one hand full of bloody hanky, three small puddles of blood on the grass before me and the indelible image of this little whirlwind of a girl who, at the age of six, was already willing endure such an experience for the chance to sell disposable body parts if it meant a five dollar payoff. This gal has the tooth fairy under contract.
Not long after this, we moved back to California and put a whole timezone between us and Amelia. So far, it’s been sufficient but some days, I recall this story and wonder.
Can you imagine such a scene along any suburbia street these days?
This happened 20-some-odd years ago and I’m sure that some day, I’m going to see her the news.