Do you remember the first time you lost a tooth? I do. The damn thing had been shaking for days. Those smarter than me, said it had to come out. But I’d hear none of it; my tooth was staying. And that was that. A few days of walking on eggshells around that tooth, the little bugger bit into a piece of cane and stuck. And just like that, the pain was gone! I was so proud of that tooth. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.
But there was more, apparently. There was a secret that I was now old enough to know. The tooth had magic! I had only to leave it all night on the windowsill. Then I had to rise before the sun rose, and I’d find in the place of my tooth, a gift from the tooth fairy. I scoffed at the challenge. Rise before the sun rises? Is that all? Please!
So I went to bed feeling super cocky; armed only with the belief that by some miracle, I’d instinctively know the exact moment to open my eyes. And then of course, I over slept. I woke up to a golden room. Sunlight never looked so sad! And the fallen tooth on the windowsill couldn’t have looked more forlorn. And worse! I got no sympathy from anyone. Not a mite of sympathy from those people! It was like the tooth fairy had replaced my loving family with those heartless blokes! “You overslept. The sun took your gift.”
Best revelation of my life up to that point. Rise before the sun or you’ll find it gone. Whatever ‘IT’ is. I never did find out. Never beat the sun to the windowsill. Never found a magical gift in the place of tooth after forlorn tooth. Needless to say, it was years later that it finally dawned on me. If I couldn’t be bothered to rise before the sun rose, a forlorn tooth was all I would find.
Back then though, any disappointment over missed gifts soon wore off. Who needed magical gifts, when all I had to do was wait for Christmas? The one day that never ever disappointed. It didn’t matter how many buckets of sunlight I could scoop out of my room when I woke up, those sparkly new shoes and that sparkly new dress would still be waiting for me. I’d wear that slightly oversized dress and try my best to keep it clean all day. I’d sing carols at the top of my voice. I’d be on my best behavior, saying please and thank you. I’d stuff my tummy until breathing was itself a mean feat. But somehow, I’d still jump with glee when darkness fell and the tree lit up. Then we’d all sit together and tell stories of the year that was. We’d poke fun where fun needed to be poked. Like the time yours truly overslept and missed the tooth fairy! We’d congratulate each other for advancing to the next class; winning the debate; making the drama club. We’d reminisce over the difficult times; the scary times; the times that somehow we overcame. Individually, and together.
I didn’t know it then, but we were taking stock.
Just like I do now. Only now, I approach this season with apprehension instead of excitement. Stock taking has taken on a mean face. It has a tendency to depress me these days. It is not nearly as much fun as it used to be. There are way too many forlorn teeth. Too many missed opportunities. Too many mistakes. Too many unchecked items. Like the year just beamed right past me!
Unpleasant a task as it is, it still has to be done. I have to take stock. But maybe I’ve been doing it all wrong. Maybe, there is something to learn from my five-year-old self. Maybe there is still room for excitement. Maybe there is still hope. One more dash to the windowsill. Maybe the forlorn teeth I find, are not complete losses. So maybe this Christmas, I’ll count them as lessons. Opportunities. Challenges. Things I need to do differently. Habits I need to change. Strategies I need to tweak. Choices I need to rethink. Perhaps the problem is not thinking. Perhaps the problem is over thinking. Trying to protect a tooth whose fate is already sealed.
The tooth is lost. And so is the gift. I’ll be sad for a moment. I’m human after all. I’ll also be proud of the gifts I did clinch. And most importantly, I’ll be thankful for the teeth I still have. The chances that remain unclaimed. Tomorrow when the sun rises, it will realize that I didn’t even go to sleep.