In the middle of a family picnic in hot July, my daughter lost her first tooth.
During a full season of a thousand little things and with the thought of school looming ahead, I was hungry for a concrete memory and we set out to make one.
It would be a midsummer day "when the kids were small" as we lay down on the grass satiating our bellies with good food and our souls with the wonder that our love begets love.
In between passing the potato salad and the chocolate cake, she held out her hand. There it was.
A tiny thing.
A tiny thing that reminded me of when she was a tiny thing.
She dropped it into my palm like a lens that brought the past into focus.
I could once again feel the roughness of the top emerging through baby gums and remember the source of tears and sleepless nights which had compelled my arms to hold her close and my lips to kiss her feverish forehead.
Waiting on such a small thing, and with a bit of pain it finally comes. Then waiting and waiting again, and with a bit of pain, it departs.
A tooth, a baby.
A small bit of wisdom given to me so long ago was made tangible:
"The minute they're born, they are moving away from you."
Toward independence, toward heartache, and toward the things we pray the future holds for them.
I looked up into the present to see a toothless grin, the exact inverted smile of her baby days when the only visible tooth in her mouth was the one I held in my hand.
I drew a breath and wished hard that I could go back in time. To tell myself to savor the moments spent even in tears. But before I could exhale, she was gone—swinging on the swings. Higher and higher. Up and away.