Loose Teeth and Cartwheels

(This story is rated safe for Sally to read. Somebody please inform her she is allowed to read this story in its entirety.)

One of my friends (and of course loyal followers) told me he wanted me to write a story about an early memory of mine. He said he loves my stories where I just talk about how great I am (each word very true) but wants to see a story in which I possibly don’t end up even better than I was before. It took me a long time to find that story. Today, while talking to a girl I should not be speaking to, I remembered the one story where I didn’t really learn a lesson, and it actually affected me negatively for many years to come. At least this is my theory on how my awkward teenage years happened.

My parents, in a move I had never truly understood, moved our family from Los Angeles County to a small suburb of D.C. Try explaining, as a six-year-old, why your parents plucked you from Southern California and moved you to Virginia. There isn’t a single reason a child can comprehend on why someone would do such a thing. I’m now deeply entrenched in my thirties and the only thing I can imagine is the tax rate in California was so high they wanted to get out before rolling blackouts, earthquakes, wildfires, riots and gang wars started to tear the state apart.

Virginia would not have been my option (still isn’t being that I left it behind years ago), but I was six and not regularly included in the familial decision-making process back then. Across the country we drove, arriving in Manassas the day of my sixth birthday, staying with my Uncle and Aunt for a limited time. We found and subsequently moved in to this great little house on the corner of a cult-de-sac, which was also walking distance to my new school. This was the “Donset Court House” and I met some friends there I am still close with (By close I mean I went out for a beer with one of them last Christmas, which was the first time I had seen him in probably five years, but I would still take a bullet for the guy). My dad was never a fan of the house and considered it a “transitional” home, but I remember the house fondly and every time I drove past that house when I was older I was reminded of a truly happy time in my life.

So again we had just moved from California to Manassas and my dad had taken the crash course real estate class. The first few months we were living in Virginia my parents didn’t have the opportunity to go out. If it had just been me living at home I would have understood why they never wanted to leave, but I have two sisters and can completely understand why they were probably feeling a little pent up about not getting away from them (I felt that way through most of my teenage years).

My mother endured weeks and weeks of having to spend every waking moment with an 8-year-old, a 6-year-old, and a 4-year-old. I’m certain the fact my mom didn’t kill one of us is a testament to her patience and not saying a lot for her sanity today. Although I do have the vaguest of memories of a brother that disappeared around that time. I suppose I could have made him up because I had two sisters and an over active imagination.

Weeks, in which I brought my friends over, Stacy brought her friends over and Kate was four and I am not sure she could talk, much less have friends. Weeks where at one point I may or may not have accidentally lit Kate on fire (never let three children have an unsupervised candlelit dinner, especially when one of those children was me). These were weeks in which she had to read three different bedtime stories to three different children every night. Weeks where three children decided what was on the television and not her. Weeks where I would continually ask her how long it would take for all four of my front loose teeth to fall out and my adult teeth to grow in. Weeks I can honestly say I hope I never have to experience in my life. The woman was (is) a saint, and this was her penance. She deserved a night away from us (well, the other two, I’m positive she never wanted to get away from me).

Finally, my mother got this night, sort of.

My parents, getting ready to celebrate their first night out and away from the three children they are oh, so proud to have reared, called my cousin to babysit us. This was her first babysitting gig, and she was definitely looking forward to this moment. It was going to be evidence that she was an adult. It would be a chance to show her parents that she could handle more responsibility. It would also be a way to make a little bit of extra cash at the age of 14.

Don had planned a lovely little evening for Sally and himself which included a trip to Washington D.C. for a fancy dinner. Manassas was (actually probably still is, I don’t think it moved geographically) about 45 minutes from the District and they had their reservation for 8 o’clock or so. He had gone and picked up my cousin and brought her to the house, and they were both getting ready to go, attempting to hide the fact that they were excited about getting away from their children for an evening.

Out the door they went, and down to the basement we went. My cousin, my two sisters, our neighbor, Lexi Coyote, and myself sat there watching television and playing waiting for the night to pass and for Don and Sally to come back home, even though we would undoubtedly be in bed by the time they got back (we wouldn’t be).

I was six at the time, and I was exceptionally into television. I loved television. I still do actually. Stacy was eight, Lexi was seven and they both wanted to be gymnasts and cheerleaders. I don’t remember what Kate was doing on this night because, again, she was four and not actually in the TV. I think she cried a lot later, which will be understandable in a bit.

My cousin was sitting on the couch, probably cradling Kate in her arms (do you cradle a 4-year-old?). Stacy and Lexi were a little off to the side practicing tumbling moves and talking about how they were going to cheer when they got older. I was laying stomach down on the maroon shag carpet that covered our basement head propped up in my hands, watching, ever so intently, a rerun of the classic cartoon Speed Buggy.

As I sat there, minding my own, waiting to see what shenanigans Speed Buggy would be getting into next I had successfully tuned out everything around me, a talent I have lost as I have gotten older but wish I still had. Unfortunately, while I was sitting there completely wrapped up in this show, my sister’s and Lexi’s tumbling act had moved from their corner  by the couch to a more central living room position. Almost in the area one would sit to watch television if one was, I don’t know, say six or so.

I still am not 100% sure how this happened. I don’t know if it was intentional or not. I don’t know if I moved my head ever so slightly as I was curious as to what Speed Buggy would do next, but I went from watching this classic cartoon on Nickelodeon to seeing darkness and stars, with the most excruciating pain in the world now pulsating from the bottom of chin.

When I opened my eyes again, only a moment later, blood was pouring out of my mouth, down my shirt, and all over the carpet of our rented house (sorry about that, Sally). The four loose teeth which were there only a moment ago had been splayed across the room (apparently the answer to my constant query of how long it would take for me to lose all four of my teeth was one second of blinding pain). My cousin ran over to console me as I began to sob. I could still feel the force of Lexi’s wayward cartwheel on the bottom of my jaw and at that moment all I wanted were my parents who were in D.C., 45 minutes away, which in injured kid time was an eternity.

My cousin sent Lexi home, and we called my friend’s mom for advice on what to do. She came over and said the best thing to do would be to gargle with salt water.

I will always love this woman. She is a dear family friend and her husband was actually my lawyer once. Her son was my best friend for a very long time and I will always care for and about him. But this may have been the worst idea in the history of ideas. She literally suggested that we rinse the bleeding, throbbing, open wound of a six-year-old with salt (Oddly enough, years later when the destiny of a “magic” screw came to fruition and completely penetrated my lip, my mother feeling bad for me took me to Wendy’s for dinner, which I was excited about, but then I ate the fries and once again an open oral injury was doused in salt, and I was painfully reminded of the day Lexi kicked my teeth out). Needless to say, I screamed a lot.

My parents had apparently arrived at the restaurant, checked in for their reservation, to which they were given a message their son had just lost all of his teeth in a random jaw kicking and their presence was required back at home. That was my parent’s first night out in Virginia, a 45-minute trip to the city, finding parking, walking into a restaurant and a 45-minute trip back to the suburbs to aid a child who was bleeding profusely from his mouth.

It was a while before they left us with a babysitter again.

I feel for my parents. All they wanted was a night away from my sisters. Who could blame them? Due to that night out though I had to suffer through braces and retainers for years. The resulting extra financial burden on my parents was all because of a swift kick to the jaw from Lexi Coyote which effectively moved the makeup of my mouth causing terrible buck teeth and painful childhood memories of hurtful nicknames from bastard older brothers of friends (I don’t know how true that is, but that is the story I am going with).

My parents eventually got a night out by themselves. It was probably a wonderful night since there was an extremely slim chance I would lose four teeth at once again. My cousin took some time before babysitting again. I think she wasn’t exactly sure of what to do in the case of an emergency, and that scared her ever so slightly. I think the only good thing that came from that night was when the tooth fairy came to pick up the remains of my four front teeth that we were able find she definitely hooked me up. I think she left me $1.50 instead of the standard $.25 per tooth. I guess pain has some advantages.

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