She has a gap between her two front teeth. The front right tooth broke through with an emphatic huzzah, a brilliant streak of white suddenly punctuating the glistening expanse of swollen red gums, a lieutenant barking orders at the foot soldiers below. It joined the two bottom teeth in effectively changing the landscape of her face. Her dark eyebrows arched gracefully over striking, almond eyes had new balance with the solid anchor of her changed mouth. Sweet rosy lips now framing a perfect triangle of clicking, sucking and clamping delight. These new found elements in her mouth fueled a renewal of passion for discovery. She chattered and clacked, gnawed and ground. I ground my own teeth in silent prayer that her startlingly sharp new teeth would not explore the parts of me so familiar to her mouth.
At night she makes whistling sounds pressing her tongue against her teeth and industriously blowing air through the corridors of tooth and gum even as she sleeps. She moves her jaw back and forth, the lieutenant tooth grinding mercilessly against the lower two, asserting its dominant position and size. She tests the teeth against my flesh, the expanse between thumb and finger, the corner of my wrist, and yes, my breast, but there only twice. The shrill gasp and sudden flinch as I pulled from her mouth announced a distance she wanted nothing of. She has abandoned all assaults against her source of comfort and sustenance, and for that I give thanks and offer up my wrist, hand and shoulder.
A few days ago her top tooth was joined by another. This tooth is shorter and with ridges on bottom. It is at times like a lazy eye, giving the architecture of her face a slightly off-kilter appearance. It changes her, that tooth. As smiles break across her delicate face, the fineness of her visage is exquisitely marred by the surprising jagged tooth. The gap it creates sends ripples through the symmetry of her countenance. It is wide and filled with the plumpest dollop of blushing gum. I love this gap, this imperfection that finishes the masterpiece. Her dark blue eyes, though lighter than they once were, dance and skip above the gap. The more she giggles and the more she moves, the more I cannot tear myself away from that gap. I want to run my fingers along the staggered line beneath her teeth, I want to rattle my nail between the two. I lose myself in her gap. The second tooth is growing fast, the distance narrowing between their size, though the gap remains.
I hope to protect her from the ills of wishing for an image other than her own, yet I fervently hope she keeps her imperfect gap. I have learned how swiftly the seasons of infancy and toddler-hood go. I have already bade farewell to more words and rituals with Briar than I care to remember. I can let go the things I know must pass, but I wish desperately to hold on to the gap. This perfect declaration of uniqueness, of going at her own pace. This gap is grittiness. It is throatiness in a world of high pitched squeals, it is coloring outside the lines and it is running when everyone else is walking. Perhaps what I am wishing for is that Avery will have the strength to embrace her gaps and her cowlicks, her curves and her angles. I know that when this gap does close I will still love most in both Briar and Avery, that which makes them each so definitively mine and decidedly their own.