Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The last baby tooth

Gwendolyn arrived home yesterday and I was reminded how this oldest child grows me up.  The river of her life is always the first to cut my banks, always the first to rut out new territory, always the first to show me:  this comes next.

In her hand she held a tiny orange box from school, the last of it's kind for her.  A tooth kicked around inside.  It was a molar, wide and substantial, there was nothing babyish about it.  

Instead, it looked ancient, another one of life's artifacts, something that could have been dug from the ground, just as easily as from the dense gum of her jaw.   It marks the end of an epoch, and the history lays beneath us, solid as stone. 

The feeling of this ending has been hovering around me lately.  I felt it this weekend when I stood next to a woman holding a tiny infant, it's fragile, animal head and claw like fingers all huddled in a bundle near her shoulder.  The baby's tininess so foreign to me, and at the same time, so familiar.   

At that moment I was sure that it had happened.  That I had grown old--yes old, no longer young, no longer the mother with an infant in her arms.  There was a certainty to it that I had not felt before.  I felt it again when Eloise, our baby, read the word should, and again when I looked in the eyes of our aging dog.

Then Gwendolyn came home with her tooth, round and solid like a period, marking, very definitively, the end of something.  

There is nothing to do really but rest, 
right here on the solid grown of now.  

So I get on my knees, 
bow my forehead low, 
and pour my tears out like an offering.
May Gwendolyn and I go gently
into the dark mystery. 
May we stay tender.

May our next epoch together, 
and its great crossing,
show us our strength.

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