I’ll never forget the excitement of when I lost my first tooth. After all, I was the last one in my whole class, the whole year in fact, to lose their first tooth.
I remember my friends telling tales of being left money by the tooth fairy. “You put your tooth under the pillow and then the next morning, the tooth’s gone and there’s money in its place!” my best friend explained to me, a massive grin on her face. “When I lose another tooth, I’ll have enough money to buy the dolly I’ve seen in the toy shop.”
I stared at her, feeling my mouth grow into a pout, it being full of teeth, without even the hint of a wobbly tooth anywhere in sight.
“I’ve got two that are really wobbly. Look!” another friend said, proudly, opening her mouth as wide as possible, ferociously wobbling one, then the other in the hope they would fall out.
To me, at seven years old, it seemed tremendously unfair. I wanted my teeth to start falling out and to be able to buy a dolly from the shop, too.
“It’s a sign that your teeth are healthy,” Mum said. “You must have the best teeth in the school!”
She may well have been right, I don’t know. I have to admit, I’ve had very little problems with my teeth over the years, but at the tender age of seven, that really wasn’t a priority.
Looking back now, it’s no surprise that I had a long wait until my first tooth came out. In this photo, taken after my first birthday, I didn’t have a single tooth; I was all gums. Babies usually sprout their first tooth between four and seven months and Mum says it was well over a year before my first tooth appeared. So, naturally, this meant I held on to my milk teeth that little bit longer.
It was at school that my first tooth finally came out. And I nearly dropped it. My best friend tutted. By then, she was a ‘teeth’ and ‘tooth fairy’ expert, having lost numerous teeth. I was sure she had a whole set of dolls by now. “You need to wrap it up carefully in some tissue,” she told me, “and put it somewhere safe. You don’t want to lose it. The tooth fairy won’t come then and you won’t get any money.”
That sent me into a panic and I think I kept checking my skirt pocket every few minutes, just to check it was still there.
I managed to make it home and the tooth was carefully tucked under my pillow. Somehow, I slept that night and I’ll always remember the butterflies in my stomach on waking, wondering if she’d been. I felt the same at Christmas, when I awoke to see a stocking full of presents after Father Christmas had visited.
There may not have been any presents, but there was a shiny silver coin under the pillow. Fifty whole pence. I felt like a pirate who’d uncovered the biggest mound of treasure. I jumped out of bed, eager to tell Mum and Dad as soon as possible. And it wasn’t just about the money; it was also very much about the tooth fairy. I had images of a pretty fairy, dressed in green, with beautiful, shimmering wings all colours of the rainbow.
“I hope I see her next time,” I told Mum. “I’m going to stay awake all night so I see her.”
Of course, I didn’t ever stay awake and funnily enough, not did I ever catch a glimpse of the tooth fairy. But she played an important part of my life for a few years. Looking back at photos in my later junior school years, and the huge gaps in my teeth, I wonder what all the fuss was about and why I was in such a rush to lose those teeth. Oh, to be a child again.