I am thinking of Nanny right now. It's the time of year when, once I left home, I knew I'd get to see her more regularly than usual. Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then her birthday. Three months of Nanny really.
She hated cold and/or rainy weather. Just hated them. She'd bundle up in roughly 32 layers when the temperature dropped south of 65 and set her heater on thermal blast. I used to stagger backwards when I walked into her house during a winter month, as if I'd ventured into a broiling oven.
Despite the incongruence of her favorite holidays and birthday falling during her least-favorite time of year, she always had her glorious smile at the ready. And her cooking mitts on.
This was prime Nanny-as-culinary-matriarch season. Cranberry sauce, rice and cornbread dressings, blackberry pies. She'd whip them all out, full of flavor and just perfect.
Anyway, all this is not really the point of this story but will be a good one for later. Why, you might ask?
Because other than teaching me how to cook all this goodness, Nanny also taught me to pull teeth. It was an inadvertent lesson; really, I just remember how she pulled mine and Elia's. Teeth gross my mother out. Loose teeth? The ones that go horizontal in a light wind? She'd rather die than look at them. So pulling them? Forget it.
Nanny would soak a thin washcloth in cold water, wring it out, grip the loose tooth with her strong fingers and the cloth, and twist quickly up to one side. I don't ever remember it hurting.
The cold wet cloth was the key, in my opinion. It ensured that the tooth wouldn't slip the way it can between naked fingers. It also provided a slight distraction, for you felt and initially focused on the cold. During that moment, Nanny did the upward twist move, and once you noticed, the job was done. Finally, a gum that's just been liberated of a tooth is wont to bleed, and so that wet washcloth was right there, just waiting to absorb whatever drool and blood pooled in the fresh hole.
Tom is rather like Mom. The very idea of pulling a tooth sends him for the hills. And so I have donned the mantle of Resident Tooth Puller.
Each time I wet and wring the cloth, I tell the kids the story of how Nanny once did the same. I tell them about the upward twist, how quickly and painlessly it snaps the last of the connective roots.
Before they know it, they're sticking their tongues into the space that only seconds before wasn't there.
Last night, it was Ol's turn. For the first time! He was so nervous but also desperate: to lose a tooth and to get that puppy out. It was hanging every which way and his gum was swollen. "I am scared, Mama, but also I want this tooth out. I feel small because I think I am the only one who hasn't lost a tooth."
"Well buddy, you have to come to the right place."
He was beyond thrilled, said that the tooth fairy could not, under any circumstance, take his tooth* (probably because of his hoarding tendencies) and fell asleep happily.
Thank you for the tried and true method, Nanny. I miss you.
*Conversation about said ordinance:
Oliver: "I do NOT want the tooth fairy to take my tooth."
Jack: "Why not? Don't you want a gold dollar coin like she always leaves me?"
Oliver: "No. I want my tooth."
Jack: "You are weird."
Oliver: "It's not all about the money, Jack."