Last week, I started taking a French class.
I’ve always wanted to learn French. A thousand years ago, I went to college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I transferred there as a sophomore and didn’t have the option of preregistering for classes beforehand.
During the normal registration period, I signed up for the classes I needed. If one was unavailable, I had to start over and rebuild my schedule from scratch, trying to fit the classes together like a Tetris puzzle. I’d already done this twice, which meant running around the entire campus, from department to department, getting approval for admittance.
Way back when I was a little girl, starting to lose my baby teeth, my father and I had a ritual.
I could not stand the thought of pulling my own teeth. I was such a wimp about it that, when one became loose, it had to practically fall out of my head on its own because I wasn’t going to touch it.
Sometimes, I watched in the mirror as my tongue tugged at it, jiggling it back and forth in my mouth, worrying it until it was often hanging only by a thread. Even then, I couldn’t do it. There was no way I was going to remove my own teeth.
One fell out one day when I was eating ice cream. Another was pulled out by a sticky candy bar. The rest were Daddy’s job.
My mother would usually report to him that I had a tooth that needed pulling. Sitting in our living room after work, he would put down his newspaper and call me over. “Sally, come here and let me check your tooth.”
He might as well have said, “Come here and let me give you a spanking,” but I knew that I had to go and sit on his lap so that he could “test” my loose tooth.
I would sit down, begging, “No, Daddy, don’t pull it! Just check it, okay? Don’t hurt me.”
Invariably, he would respond. “I’m not going to pull it. I’m just going to wiggle it to see how loose it is.”
“Really? You promise?”
“I promise I’m just going to wiggle it.”
He made that promise to me every time, and every time, it was a necessary lie. He’d twiddle my tooth back and forth a couple of times before getting a good enough grip on it to yank it out. He knew that he only had one shot at it because, had he not gotten it the first time, I would have been out of there like a scalded dog.
I usually cried a little, though it really didn’t hurt much, as I’d jump down to run and look in the mirror at the bloody hole where my tooth used to be.
My sister, who was younger, pulled all her own baby teeth. So did my son, years later. I was eternally grateful for that because, even now, the idea of that parental task makes me shudder.
Thank you, Daddy, for having a strong stomach and nibble fingers.