I noticed the gap in the lower right front of Charlie’s mouth when he smiled this afternoon: A tooth (a canine, from the diagram the dentist had given us) was clearly not there. Jim and I tried to remember when we had last not seen that gap, and then I remembered that another student in Charlie’s class had lost a tooth (and missed a day at school): Charlie is due to lose a few more in the next few years and—-from the way he was pulling and poking at the lower left side of his mouth before going to bed tonight, in the next few days.
And Charlie was clearly irked and unsettled by the strange feeling of a wriggling tooth in his mouth.
“Mahm,” he called to me as he lay on the couch. “Mahm. Mahm.” I walked over and Charlie looked up at me, his fingers wet and the tips pushing at his lower left lip. “Mahm. I want.”
No wonder, I thought to myself, Charlie had wanted to eat an entire box of frozen peas, for the cooling sensation in his mouth. No wonder he had not wanted to chew on the drumstick I had placed in his bowl at dinner.
I had been relieved when Charlie, on first waking up, stayed in his bed laughing and pulling blankets and pillows over himself, all grins as if he—like ye typical child—was giddy at the thought of a snow day NO SCHOOL!!!!!!!. On Tuesday night, while Jim and I were explaining that he would probably not have school, Charlie had insisted on seeing that I packed his lunch in his lunchbox and had then reeled off the names of his teachers. This morning, Charlie looked at the snow through his bedroom windows and the garage doors and ran up for breakfast—-it only after this happy, elated beginning that he cried out and curled into a ball on the couch under his blanket. We speculated that he was respondeing to the oddness of being at home with everybody on a Wednesday morning: Fun at first, but now he wanted the orderliness of school.
The three of us got into the black car and drove on almost-empty streets in the slush and snow to the library and then to Charlie’s “favorite American restaurant” (the Golden Arches). He again curled up under his blanket after that and then, much more cheered after looking through some old photographs of ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds and even Portia his uncle’s dog, Charlie was more than ready to pull on his boots and hat and puffy coat and stomp off for a walk with Jim.
Until that tooth started wriggling; until just before bedtime: It was only in these moments of transition, when Charlie was in the inbetween time, between a snow day and a school day, that I seemed almost able to sight rays of confusion passing over his face, and he again lay on the couch and cried, his right hand tucked behind his head, for comfort.
Honestly, I am not surprised that the music Charlie called for us to “turn on!” this afternoon was “Burrrds!” singing Turn! Turn! Turn!.
Music really can mean like language does: You can still hum a fine tune with a wriggling tooth.