Mouth wide-open, she juts her lower jaw in my direction.
A row of tiny baby teeth stare up at me. Her eyes are eager for my evaluation. With jaw jutted out, she manages to ask “Is it yoose yet?” she asks excitedly.
I press the tip of my pointer finger to the tip of her tooth and move it back and forth over a firmly rooted pearl. “Maybe” I say, hoping it *might* have moved the tiniest bit of a smidgeon today!
Every day, she asks. Once in the morning, and once at night. Without fail, the jaw juts out, “What do you think? Is it any looser??”
I notice that lately, she is mesmerized by the possibility of losing a tooth. When we took our seats at the theater, she took her coat off and promptly commenced in wiggling that tooth. When she washes her hands at the bathroom sink, I peek in and notice that she is smiling oddly at herself, staring intently at her bottom teeth. She grips that tooth and tugs and wiggles, believing the time has truly come to say good-bye. It’s just the waiting that takes so very long.
Whenever she pleads, “Is it loose yet? Is it loose yet?”, I review my entire life, full of seasons in which I’d wonder and wonder…
When will I be pregnant? When will I be pregnant?
And before that, When will I meet my husband? When will I meet my husband?
And before that, When will I graduate? When will I graduate?
And before that, When will I get my license? When will I get my license?
And before that, and before that, until I was a little girl, hoping that I felt the slightest possibility of a tooth wiggling.
As I gently push her tooth back and forth, and gaze into her bright eyes, I realize, “Ah, so this is when it all begins! All the days of hoping, waiting, and expecting the next big thing on the calendar!”
At first, I want to advise her not to obsess. I think to tell her, “Just let nature do its thing. Of course your teeth will fall out soon, it’s just a matter of time. Besides, this is cold season, so don’t put your fingers in your mouth!” But then I reflect on all of the hoping that has consumed my own life, and I’m thankful that I rarely had the courage to defer hope. I’m glad I prayed and prayed and prayed for a baby, and then another one, and then another one, and then another one. I wouldn’t change a thing about the prayer lists that went around the Bible study group, on which I’d jot the same request week after week, “We would love for God to give us another child…” Because, at each stage of life, when the hoping was fulfilled – when a tooth finally letting loose, or a child was born – I received a full dose of life.
(After all, wasn’t it Noah who sent forth one bird, after another, after another, hoping for the dry land – hoping for the fulfillment of the covenant?)
And so, I will check in on that little tooth every day for her, if she asks. And I will let live the hope that is just beginning to exercise itself. For what begins in a 5 1/2 year old will grow, deepen, mature, trust, and wait over a lifetime…
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12