Many times, after I have recounted the story of our last 3 years, the person listening will say a variation of the following: “…If I were you, I would be in a corner banging my head against the wall by now.” Usually I laugh and wave a hand and say back, “Naw…it hasn’t been that bad.”
Ummm….It just got that bad.
What a day it was.
I had been longing…and I mean LONGING… to drive west towards the mountains and see the gentle wave of color that had begun to creep towards Virginia’s leaves. There’s just something about the mountains that recharges me.
We finally found a day, said no to everything else, left all our other projects, loaded up the kids and started driving West on 234.
The kids were quiet in the backseat listening to music and Colby and I had a chance to talk for –what felt like–the first time in a month. Everything had aligned just right. The sky was cloudless, Gracie was getting her morning nap in her car seat, and I had lunches all packed. We arrived at Sibling Orchard and I was inwardly spinning in delight; finally….a day to recover from the whirlwind.
We didn’t even get to pick one apple before Haley started complaining of feeling dizzy. I felt her head. Burning up.
We tried to make the best of it.
Tried to be thankful.
After all, Haley could just sit in Gracie’s stroller while Gracie crawled around in rotten apples and Darcy got to help Dad pick all the apples.
We tried to have a picnic lunch, but Haley couldn’t even eat her front tooth was so loose. Daddy tried to pull it out…that was a bad idea.
We drove home and tried to rest, but Gracie had fallen asleep on the way home for 15 minutes…just long enough to completely obliterate her afternoon nap. My husband and I tried to lay down, but the combination of hearing banging and loud playing made the attempt of a nap worse than just staying awake.
I went downstairs and started dinner, put the teething, tired, screaming baby in the high chair and attempted to feed everyone. Haley came down from her (apparently equally futile) nap, in tears she was so hungry, but not able to eat because of how loose her tooth was.
Colby again tried to pull out the front tooth so the poor child could consume some calories before the day was done, but was met with kicking and screaming (which of course made the baby scream).
Haley exited, and we heard her wailing faintly through the vents as we quietly and wearily ate our soup.
As soup bowls jingled tunes with metal spoons, Colby got up to check on Haley. After the baby had successfully discarded all of the dinner (that I had just worked hard to make) on the floor, I decided that the only thing I could do was put her to bed.
I climbed the stairs to the kid’s room, put Gracie in the crib, and joined Haley and Daddy on the bottom bunk of her bed. Darcy trailed behind and tumbled into our pile on the bed.
“Is it wrong for us all to go to bed at this hour? ” Colby asked wearily.
It was 6:00 PM.
I closed my eyes and tried to forget about the aftermath of dinner that was waiting for me downstairs.
Colby: “We gotta keep hanging in there, guys.”
He was referring to the move. Another transition. Me trying to locate our things that are being stored in three different houses (and two different countries).
Me: “Just like the tooth…”
Colby threw his head back on Haley’s purple pillow pet and laughed out loud. “Wow….WE ARE THE TOOTH!”
For a moment, we were all laughing on Haley’s faded, hand-me down Hello Kitty bedspread, the carpet of crumbs on the level below us forgotten.
Darcy: “Mom, was I cuddly when I was a baby?”
My eyes got big. This was the perfect time to get out the kid’s scrapbooks that I had just found in our storage closets. I had been waiting and waiting to find them, take them to our home, and show them to the kids.
The first picture in the pink Creative Memories scrapbook was of my pregnant belly.
“Mom, were you scared to have a baby? Were you scared it would hurt?”
Me: “Yes, Haley…more scared than you are about losing your tooth.”
The next page revealed her, fresh to the world, covered with white vernix and blood.
Darcy piped up: “Haley, it looks like a worm is coming out your belly button.”
Haley’s tooth was getting looser and looser and I put the scrapbook down for a moment to take a picture of it dangling.
We went back upstairs to join the rest of the family, and with each turn of the page, watched my baby grow and crawl and walk and run.
We were almost at the end of Haley’s first year when it happened.
Blood was starting to drip from the corner’s of Haley’s mouth (“The scrapbook! Watch the scrapbook!”), and she opened her mouth to reveal a dead tooth hanging from one mere thread of epithelial tissue.
The entire family followed her into the bathroom and watched her in the mirror as she pulled it out… all by herself.
I cried and my baby looked at me in the reflection. Before my very eyes her entire face had changed. With her front tooth missing, she looked like she had entered a whole new phase in her development.
We all cheered. Darcy wanted to examine the specimen. Haley observed how much plaque was on the tooth.
I certainly couldn’t have produced that moment….it had been produced for me. All that I had been craving had unexpectedly been satisfied. The rejuvenation I was longing for was found. And the irony was that my soul found refreshment that day, not in the mountains or the sunshine or the leaves or the burning autumn colors, but in the simple joy of being with my family.