I felt the tooth crack, and then shatter like a stone in the garden. Salt Lake’s finest and oldest buildings are formed from Rocky Mountain granite and yet one quick blow from my shovel fractures the rock into tiny grey and white crystals.
Spitting the fragments into my palm my tongue probes the hollow– how will I pay for this? what have I done wrong? why didn’t I go to my last check-up?– and then the next tooth crumbles and the next and the next, I’m coughing out shards and grief as I shake myself into wakefulness.
Dampened with sweat, I pull myself away from Mary’s curved form and tuck in blankets to replace my warmth. Erik is out of town and my bedroom is a minefield of toys and small bodies who love to play slumber party when daddy is gone. Tripping to the bathroom and a glass of water, I examine my teeth– imperfect, several cavities and a root canal for each baby– but clearly intact.
I’ve read that dreams about losing teeth symbolize a fear of losing your children. This rings true to me. Like every mother, I make a mental roll call several times a day. I’ve had my scares of Mary crawling back into the bath tub when I thought she was safely settled on the couch and calling the police to describe Hans at age 6: slim as a reed, white-blonde hair, mischievous blue eyes and a Superman tee shirt.
And I have the holocaust nightmares. Panicked vignettes where I’m scrambling to secure my children in an earthquake, a fire, a bomb, from masked enemies… Where is Gabriel? Stefan? I can’t find Ben! These dreams need no interpretation.
Frustratingly awake, I wander into the office where I’ve recently moved my computer. We’ve always kept the computer out in the family room free and open for everyone. But I’ve been writing and taking enough photos that I wanted a retreat– a place away from the chaos(and um, I didn’t enjoy explaining the treaddesk to every visitor). At night, the room is cloaked in darkness, the drapes pulled, the only light emanates from my computer screen. Opening my blog account, I click through aimlessly and visit YouTube to watch a lampoon of Sesame Street.
And there it is: video reponses– the best of Playboy, Maxim, Hustler– rated X. My computer has every porn block possible but it’s still right there. Pornography is discussed openly and often in the Mormon church, naming it “more addictive than heroin; more destructive than war” and I’ve seen the ugly up-close details of two marriages devastated by the obsession.
But my boys, my boys are sweet and obedient; they are offended when the media implies that all teenage boys are interested in a perverted model of womanhood. Yet, in the dark hush of the office, I knew I was being a fool. Do I trust my boys? Yes. Do I trust my little ones at the beach? Yes. But I watch to make sure the riptides don’t carry them away.
I’m learning that motherhood is about endurance, longevity. I’ve been mothering for 17 years now and I’ll admit that I’m weary of crafts and playdoh and the endless question of what to make for dinner. In the past year I’ve been able to spread my wings a bit, renew old talents and taste morsels of praise. But my work at home is far from done. My older children need me just as much as my little ones. Not to pound the drum of my will, but as constant ever present background music.
Literally gnawing on these thoughts and a sugar-free caramel Nip(I need these when I’m stressed); I bite down hard.
Out come two tiny shards of my tooth.
Cautious now, my tongue appraises the sharp new edge and I begin dismantling my computer and moving it back to the kitchen. Dawn spills through the house, alarms ring upstairs and we begin the 2 hour process of showers, practicing, signing planners and making lunches as the boys leave at various times(7:15, 7:30 and 9 a.m.). Xander prays and I collect good-bye kisses as the three little boys race out the door.
Silence reigns for just a moment until I hear Mary’s voice. Kneeling on my bed, fairylike, surrounded by white comforters and pillows, she reaches for me, “You know what I would wish if wishing wells were real and if I had a real wishing well?
I brush away the cloud of fine hair veiling her eyes, “What would you wish, Pinky?”
“That your only job was to be my mommy.”
She folds into my arms as we plan our morning— paint nails, fold laundry, mix up sugar cookie dough and an episode of “Word Girl” before preschool. And then two hours where my time is my own. I DO have time to pursue my interests, but it must be carefully carved and chiseled to the contours of my family.
I need to call the dentist– and soon– but for now I’m indebted to this razor-edged reminder of all that remains.