The day my daughter turned five she told us she had a loose tooth.
My husband panicked. Well, slightly. First because things about teeth gross him out. Secondly, he admitted a few days later that it was also because she was growing up too fast to suit him.
It was only last month she was getting that first tooth, wasn’t it?
Now it was wiggling and had turned a funny color. I called the dentist and asked, “Does the fact my daughter’s tooth has turned grey-ish mean that ought to bring her in for a visit?”
Nope. Sounded normal to her.
So I lamented not having scheduled a five-year-old professional photo sooner. And the tooth wiggled its way through the week.
Then this morning it was gone.
“Look Mom!” My loose tooth isn’t loose any more. It’s gone.”
“Where is it?” I said incredulously.
“I don’t know” she said in amazement and laughter.
“I am not kidding.”
So we looked. But it was not to be found. Not in the beautiful small mouth where it has lived for the last four-and-a-half years. Not in the bed, under the pillow, or on the floor.
The search party was sent out. Strangely everyone remained amazed and tickled. The tooth was gone.
Rumors circulated that she must have swallowed the tooth.
“Do you think that’s why your throat hurt in the middle of the night?” asked Dad.
“Do you think it bit you on the way down?”
She giggled. “Maybe it bit me on the way down.”
We got ready for work and school and headed out. Everyone received the news that the first wiggly tooth was gone. Friends at church supper had to see that the tooth was gone and hear the story of how it must have been swallowed.
Plans were made to write the Tooth Fairy a note.
I went to a previously planned event after church. But I couldn’t stay. Parental guilt kicked in. I called home. “Mommy, when are you coming home?” she pleaded.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.” My hopes that she would fall asleep on the way home from church and we could write the note tomorrow night were out the window. I was on my way.
I arrived home in time to hear the last of the chapter. I read the note to the TF, gave a lot of hugs then left Dad to tuck her in, talk about her day and sing songs. It was his turn. I went to change into warmer more comfortable clothes.
I walked through the kitchen in my sock feet.
And I stepped on something. It was sharp.
I bent down to look. Unbelievable.
I went back to her room where Dad had her nearly asleep
“What?” they both answered me simultaneously.
“What about it?” asked Dad with mild disdain.
“I think I found it.”
I turned on a light and showed her. It looked a little odd. Was it really the tooth, I wondered? It fit the space between the other bottom teeth. Yep that was it. We put the tooth with the note, turned out the light, and she was asleep in a matter of minutes worn out by the day.
Honoring the body in all its many changes, and the ways it teaches us about growth and loss, joy and grief, hope and despair, could be one of the more important tasks of this life. And it starts early and never ends. There are so many subtle things to be learned. Some funny, some sad, some unnerving. It’s in the paying attention itself, that we learn to love and honor the gift of our bodies.
* This post is part of a series of stories and thoughts for those considering a call to ministry.
12. Take care of your body. Listen to it. Feed it well, mostly vegetables if possible. Move it and challenge yourself. Figure out what you are called to (and it’s not sitting on your backside all day, eating fast food or drinking every night . . . just in case you were considering these). Run. Stretch. Walk. Swim. Like prayer, discern your calling, then do it every day. If you are starting something new, go for three solid weeks. The habit is more likely to last. Self care without simplistic self-indulgence is essential for the stamina that ministry takes.