I have lots of quick, violent premonitions that never come true. They flash into my head in a bloody instant, and then they’re gone. When they come, I’ve learned to remind myself that I’m standing on my feet in the sun or sitting on my couch with a blanket around my shoulders and a book in my lap. The thing I saw didn’t actually happen. And it’s not going to. I’m less shaken by these visions than I used to be, because they come, they go, and my life goes on just the same.
That’s why I pushed the nagging flash away while I ran behind Jo on his bike 2 afternoons ago. I cycled through the things I knew. He’s a really good rider. I had just reminded him to check driveways and slow down as he rode past. And he was doing it like a champ. I ran behind him with Cal in the stroller and kept breathing. Nothing’s wrong. He’s fine.
When he fell, it was nothing to do with the little horror in my head—a car heedlessly backing into and over his soft little body. It was just your run-of–the-mill bike crash. I saw him swerve a bit and then go down. Figured we’d walk the bike home and tend whatever scrapes he’d gotten.
Then he started running towards me, screaming. His face was that strange purple-grey color it gets when he’s really crying hard. There was blood coming out of his mouth.
As he got closer, I could see the pink roots of his two front top teeth, and in a wild animal moment, I stashed Cal’s stroller in the grass and reached down into Jo’s screaming mouth. The first tooth came right out. I reached for the other. It was still stuck somehow. I twisted and pulled harder and felt the sucking release like when you pull apart chicken bones. His eyes were gaping into mine, wild and afraid. A bloody ribbon of his upper gum was still stuck to the tooth as I pulled and then it let go and sprang back in to his mouth.
I had both bloody teeth in my hand.
Then I grabbed my boy and sunk down to the sidewalk with him. He buried his bloody face in my chest.
In that moment I wanted to rip his shirt off and mine and just press him to me. But I didn’t. I kept holding and telling him it would be okay and that he could cry all he wanted.
Only one sob snuck into my quick call to AJ, telling him to come pick us up. And then we just sat there. Cal squawking in his stroller and Jo sobbing, “Will it ever stop bleeding?”
One woman who walked by and lived near brought us a bag of ice. Bless her. Jo clutched it to his mouth. And I rocked him and kissed him and waited. Cal squawked.
That was pretty much it. AJ showed up with Ibuprofen and his characteristic calm. We came home and I made Jo a nest on the couch and he asked for me to read him a book.
An hour later he was jumping around with our neighbor’s son making poop jokes.
And that was that.
Apparently, I do good dental work under pressure, because the dentist reported that I got every last bit of both roots out, so there’s no risk of infection.
And apparently, for me, prying my son’s teeth out of his screaming mouth on a street corner was a somewhat traumatizing experience. The next day, after our good dental report, I went into work for a few hours and mostly sat at my desk and stared like a zombie into nothing.
The day after that, I was exhausted to the core, and had a cathartic cry with my friend Mel.
And today, I’m back. Slinging tuna sandwiches and feeling kinda bad ass that I was able to yank those effing teeth out.
The things that motherhood requires of us.