The Day The Last Baby Tooth Fell Out

mouth

My son didn’t lose his teeth.

Nearly all of Tech’s chompers came in all “fakakta,” a Yiddish word meaning completely crazy. They just never got wiggly, so each one needed to be pulled by the dentist.

It seemed like such a chore. Why couldn’t my son just loose his teeth the way other children did? Swallow them accidentally while eating cake or donuts? Why did everything have to be such a production?

I always anticipated a fight on the way to the dentist’s chair. And yet, Tech never complained. Sitting on hard black waiting room chairs, he wasn’t nervous. Not even the first time. He just waited for his name to be called, and after the first time, he was a pro. He knew there would be a shot of Novocain, followed by numbness, followed by pressure. But he had faith in the adults around him. And he always appeared, chewing on a wad of bloody gauze, to hand me a tiny plastic container that held his tooth, or – in one instance – four teeth.

Last Friday, Tech informed me that he had a loose tooth. I didn’t think much of it; I figured eventually I’d call the dentist and make an appointment to have it extracted.

But that night, Tech took one bite into a slice of pizza and spat his mouthful of half-chewed food onto his plate and started mining. It only took a moment for him to find the tiny sauce-covered nugget.

That's it. The last one.

That’s it. The last one.

Holding it in his hands, Tech slurred his words. “Dat’s la lass wun.”

And then I realized what he was saying.

My son had just lost his last baby tooth.

I stopped chewing and looked across the table at my husband.

TechSupport is our only child. At thirteen years old, he is in no hurry to grow up. He tells us stories of classmates who have girlfriends or boyfriends, kids who drink and smoke after school or on weekends at parties he doesn’t attend. He isn’t interested in any of this at the moment. He has only just recently become a little teenagerishy.

And while he may not realize it, at thirteen years old, my son has crossed over. Lately, it feels like he is more on the grown up side of things than on the boy side. He’s tall. And with his longer hair, he looks older than he is – especially when he stands next to some of his friends who are shorter and stubbier than he is.

The Tooth Fairy has always left a little to be desired on our house. Tech figured out I was The Fairy at age 7, when his $2 bill came accompanied by a note typed in my favorite font. When questioned, I could not deny it. He had the evidence. A common-sense kind of guy, Tech has never been interested in magic — except to figure out how the tricks really worked.

That Friday night, after the dishes were done, I found my purse and tried to give my son a few bucks.

He shook his head, refusing. He’d seen the news by then. And even though the story was just unfolding, I think he felt the weight of what had happened in Connecticut.

I moved closer to him. We stand eye to eye these days, and I was surprised to see that night his eyes were light brown, the color of cream soda. I pressed a few single dollar bills against his chest. “It’s the last one! And it fell out all by itself.”

“It just knew to stop holding on.” Tech shrugged. “Kind of like you need to stop holding on, Mom.”

I reached out a hand to touch Tech’s shoulder, but he is squirmy these days, and he moved away. Sometimes he doesn’t feel like being touched.

“Will you just put my tooth in with the others?” he asked.

I raised an eyebrow. How did he know about the purple box in the corner of my husband’s closet?

“Dad showed me,” Tech answered, reading my mind. “I used to think it was weird that you guys kept my teeth. But now… I get it.”

I know it's a little creepy, but...

I know it’s a little creepy, but…

I walked upstairs and sat on the floor inside the quiet closet. As I removed the top to the old blue shoebox, I was surprised by the oddities the box held: an old watch, an ancient skull (a gift given from my father-in-law to my husband, before he went off to medical school), and the purple jewelry box with the psychedelic rectangular pattern on the cover. I opened the purple clamshell and plopped the last of Tech’s baby teeth inside before snapping it shut.

I know that most people do not save teeth. I know plenty of people who think saving teeth is pretty disgusting. I suppose I saved Tech’s teeth because the wonky, misshapen bits are little perfectly-imperfect pieces-parts of a person I love, something that I can hold in my hands. I suppose, one day, those little nubs will serve as a reminder of a simpler, sweeter time: a time when my boy wanted cuddles and Goldfish crackers and not much else.

I shook the purple box.

It sounded like diamonds rattling around in there.

And then I thought about all those kids from the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

I thought of their teeth.

I know it’s weird, but grief isn’t logical.

I thought of all those baby teeth that hadn’t yet fallen out.

Of all those permanent teeth that hadn’t yet come in.

How nothing is permanent.

How everything is breakable.

And I wept, alone in the closet.

Because the sky isn’t up there; it is between us.

I have never been a hovercraft parent, but right now, I’m holding on like one of my son’s stubborn teeth: not ready to let go.

What personal mementos of your children are most precious to you?

tweet me @rasjacobson

I’m unplugging until December 27th, but I want to wish those of you who celebrate a Merry Christmas. And to everyone else, I hope you enjoy the time off with family and friends. Let’s get ready to ring in 2013.

58 responses to “The Day The Last Baby Tooth Fell Out

  1. Oh, how my heart broke reading this, as it has broken a million times over the last week.

    The only memento I can think of at this point is hair from my son’s first haircut. I’m sure there are more, but I think that’s the one that’s most important to me. It’s calls forth a whole set of memories.

    I hope your time off is sweet, and that TechSupport doesn’t mind a little extra hovering borne from love.

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    • I have a lock of Tech’s hair. Back when we called him Monkey. If we cut his hair now, it would be a much longer sample. It’s funny that we hang onto these bits and pieces. But they are sweet reminders.

      Of a time when our children were softer. And even their teeth were pretty harmless. They are so very small. May L’il D always be a gentle soul.

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  2. I kept baby teeth too, Renée … and special sweaters my mother knit for my sons and their favourite Fisher-Price toys. Yup, all safely stored away. Then when the grandchildren began arriving, I passed them on (except the teeth – I still have those) and savoured the moments. A tragedy like Newtown reminds us to appreciate our good fortune in watching our children grow up. Our hearts break for those who won’t. Wishing you and your family the best of this holiday season.

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  3. This is truly beautiful in so many ways, Renee. Thank you. BY the way, all my kids little teeth are in the back of the jewelry drawer in my dresser.

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  4. I have tears in my eyes. I think I have a few of my daughter’s baby teeth. But you are right. Life is fleeting so hold onto whatever you want. Those parents lost their most precious children. And we are lucky to still have our children, for at least another day…

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    • So fortunate. Truly. I’m trying to hold onto this for as long as I can. Sometimes what we see our annoyances are really our blessings in disguise. Having to bring my son to the dentist means I have a son who is alive. For this, I am truly thankful. Love to you and the family. I hope you get some family time!😉

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  5. Ugh. I’m crying all over again now. So beautiful and moving. I wanted to be all funny and tell you that my kids have all had fakakta teeth, too (from their Jewish dad, or at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it), but then I read on and the reality of everything swept over me in such a great gushing wave that I almost lost it here at my office. Those 13 YO’s can be pretty tough, but occasionally they will let you into their world. And lay their heads on your shoulder or not pull away when you put your arm around them. And, just for a minute, you feel that warm bond and remember that the love is still there. It’s just not shown in quite the same – but that isn’t always bad, either. These days the kids keep me laughing more than I’ve laughed since college. And that is a whole different display of affection that I’ve come to appreciate ALMOST as much as those bedtime snuggles when both of us were trying to squeeze just a few minutes more into the quickly waning days of their childhood….

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  6. Someone gave this thing to me–it’s a twelve inch in diameter wreath made of cloth, stuffed with the fluffy stuff, and sort of looks like a circle of knotted bread made out of pink and blue patchwork swatches of fabric. Obviously, for the occasion of a baby, but for some reason, there was three magnets spaced out on one side so you could stick it to a metal object. No, I do not know why anyone would make something like this specifically to stick to metal, but it was probably meant for the fridge, so that’s where I stuck it so as not to offend the friend who gave it to me.

    When my daughter was five-six months old, she would pitch absolute fits for no reason that I could figure out. I’d give her toys, she’d throw them down. I’d pick her up, she’d kick to get down. *sigh* One day she was particularly fussy and I pulled this thing off the fridge and flopped it on her head like a circlet crown and she … stopped crying. I’d take it off, she’d scream bloody murder. Put it back, she’d grin the biggest toothless smile. She wore that thing on her head at least three-four times a week until she could walk. She’d be trudging along in her walker, making motor-boat-noises, perfectly content as long as she had this thing on her head.

    I dunno. I kept it because the memory is so powerful; her eyes puffy from crying, but grinning like mad, and me so thankful that I’d finally figured out something to make her happy. It’s only marginally easier to figure out how to make her happy now, but to this day I can threaten to get her “thing” out and put it on her head when she’s cranky, and she gets it.

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  7. I love how TS found the moment, the universal in this. And then you connected it further…to the CT tragedy. Beautiful. And fragile too.

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    • I feel so fragile in all of this. What I didn’t say was that Friday was my LAST day at school. Like for real. Done.

      So everything felt extra-weird. Like I am abandoning a profession in which I believe so passionately when students need teachers they can trust more than ever. Like my son’s innocence is somehow caught in this ugly web of violence that we seem to love so much here in the US.

      Le sigh, Shirtsleeves. I know you understand.

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  8. Found your blog via Twitter…wonderful post. I have found that I can barely write about the Newtown tragedy (though I’ve tried) so when I come across other posts about it, I am drawn to them as it helps me process my grief in some small way. I am taking a blogging break too, mainly because I’ve had writer’s block since last Friday…

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    • Emily: Like you, I had been devouring posts about Newtown for days. I’m glad to be on vacation where we have no TV and limited access to Internet. I feel like I can breathe again. Like I’m coming out of the darkness. I wish the same to you.

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  9. I kept all 3 of my boy’s teeth and a lock of their hair, along with baby shoes (My how their feet have grown!) and a few things from school. I’m thankful they have grown into wonderful young men, but they are still my babies, and a mother’s worry never ends🙂 My heart breaks just thinking of the CT tragedy. They were just babies, but my heart hurts even more for their families.

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  10. I have a few teeth, but not the whole collection. (There happens to be one on my dresser right now.) Overall, I’m pretty inconsistent with any collections from my boys. I’m vigilant with two things: school work and Christmas decorations. I have every single Christmas ornament they ever made on my tree. Doily angels with their photos for the face, macaroni creations, and reindeer faces made of their hand and footprints. I’ll never have one of those designer trees like the ones in the department store, but I do have one filled with love and memories.

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    • I love that you decorate your Christmas tree with all those precious handmade ornaments. I would love to see it. I hope you take pictures. It sounds like it has to be the topic of a great blog post. *Hint hint* Have a wonderful Christmas Lisha. Enjoy the time with the people you love so much.

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  11. Oh, Renee. I thought all my tears for Sandy Hook’s babies had finally dried and then I read this and here they are, flowing fast and furiously.

    Your son is wise beyond his years, indeed. He knows the power of a moment, understands sentiment and guards his mama’s heart.

    What a man you are raising. What a good, good man.

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  12. Oh, and Matthew lost his top front tooth tonight. This post reminded me to find a toonie (a $2 coin) and tuck it under his pillow. Thank you for all the gentle reminders in this post, my friend.

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  13. This is a beautiful post Renee. You did a wonderful job.

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  14. Thank you for the beautiful story, Renee. I appreciated the way you connected your exchange with TS to the horrific losses of the Newtown tragedy. As a retired kindergarten teacher, missing my little students terribly, I’m determined to become involved in gun control legislation in some meaningful way.
    I treasure a few special baby teeth of my now 22 year-old daughter, kept in envelopes. My favorite is labeled “Tower of Terror” from the time she lost a tooth while riding this falling elevator ride at Disneyworld (I chickened out at the last minute!)

    All the best to you and your family in the New Year!

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    • Erm! I love that you labeled that one tooth:”Tower of Terror”. That’s hilarious. I guess all of text teeth would be labeled dentist 1, dentist 2, dentist 3, dentist 4. LOL. I’m glad to know that the sad events at Sandy Hook have sparked something inside you to get more involved with gun legislation. I feel strongly about this as well and if there’s something I can do to help, please let me know.

      I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and all those you love most.

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  15. **I thought of all those baby teeth that hadn’t yet fallen out.**

    Renee, this sentence stabbed me directly in the heart.

    You amaze me w/ your depth. Xx oo

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    • Kim.

      I know that events like this have to slay you. I often think if you when the world feels dark. How do you carry on? The fact that you do — and with such passion — gives me so much hope. Have a wonderful Christmas with your family and those you hold close. May 2013 be a wonderful year for you and yours. And keep your sister in your heart.

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  16. Renee, that is so beautiful and you have made me think hard about my daughter’s tooth. She lost #9 a few days ago and I have thrown the last 7 away (I kept the first) but this one I can’t seem to let go of. It must have everything to do with Newtown. Thanks for this beautiful, thought-provoking post and happy holidays to you and your family.

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    • Hold onto those toofers, Holly! I swear, I’ve always thought there was something weird about me for holding onto my son’s teeth but I am so glad that I have. I’m happy to be on vacation, very much unplugged from TV and with limited access to the Internet. The peace is making things feel hopeful, making the darkness lift a bit.

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  17. For the love of ugly crying, Renee! I’m a mess. This is beautiful, perfectly written from the heart of a mama.

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    • Tori: I’m not sure this is perfect; in fact, it felt like a mess when I was writing it, however I will take your kind words to heart. I think you understand the sentiment of what I was getting at. I’m so glad I saved my son’s teeth. Maybe I’lI want to be able to clone him when he goes off to college. LOL. 😉

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  18. Hi Renee. I’m glad that Tech has parents that notice he is there and are glad that he is. Not all kids have those tow things.

    My sons are not terribly sentimental at this point but their grumpy old man is. I have some of their early drawings tucked away and I pull them out now and then to chuckle at them. Their baby booties are also some of my favorite mementos. How could those feet have ever been THAT small?

    Happy Chanukah to you, your family and all of good will. For the non-Jewish readers be happy any way. Merry Christmas and a joyous Kwanza to all.

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    • Happy holidays to you and Piper, too! I love that you are sentimental about drawings, etc. Tech didn’t do much of that, do I treasure his sketch book. I don’t care if each drawing was required by the school art teacher. Have a merry Christmas. See you in the New Year!

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  19. A loving,thoughtful beautifully written story. It brought tears to my eyes.

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  20. I’ve got a couple of teeth from, erm, I can’t remember which of my 3 children. I also have one of the letters the tooth fairy wrote, always on a tiny scrap of paper no bigger than a postage stamp. Her crabby tiny writing showed evidence of a pernickety personality, a being very much put upon, because she always found something to complain about. My children loved her and wrote back, thanking her for the 10ps under their pillows. But when my daughter continued the tradition with her twin boys, they were horrified at how sulky and cross the tooth fairy was. They cried, and the poor dear’s had to have a personality transplant. My daughter’s continued another tradition too. The First Shoes. But all this has been especially poignant, because those much-loved loved twins are the same age as those much-loved children whose lives have been devastated – or ended – at Sandy Hook. Unbearable.

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    • Margaret, I love that you had a persnickety crabby tooth fairy. I also love that your daughter created a new embodiment of the tooth fairy and gave her a personality transplant. It’s nice when family traditions can stay around. Have a Merry Christmas with your family and enjoy the time together. You are so blessed.

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  21. I have lock of green hair (yes green) I cut from my youngest’s head on the night of his prom; it is 18 inches long and tied to his prom picture. I have poems and song lyrics he wrote and the book report I made him write when on ‘Confessions of St Augustine’ when he was suspended from school.

    I have the eyebrow ring my eldest wore home from summer break, his first from university. He took it out when his first job offer told him they wanted to hire him but he had to lose the ring.

    They are my step children, they have been with me since they were 3 and 5. Their mother and I share their baby things but mostly I gave them to her. My wife-in-law, spent all their childhood covering them in care but she birthed them so all their baby things went to her. I have literally thousands of pictures of their life with me, I had primary custody for most of their life even after I divorced their father, every picture she has a copy of.

    I couldn’t breath last Friday. I called them, then I called her. We all remembered together.

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    • Val: I understand the not breathing thing. I am so glad to be on vacation now where the sky is blue and the air is crisp. We have limited access to the Internet and little TV. Being away from the media has made the dark cloud lift for me.

      I love all the things that you’ve saved from your children. They are truly treasures. But the greatest treasure is that they are here, they are well, there thriving, and they know that you are here to support them emotionally. I wish you a Merry Christmas and I hope that you and yours have a fabulous time together.

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  22. I think that 2012 has been the most stressful year for me. I recently found both of my kid’s teeth and it tugged at my heart too. How fast they grew up and moved out. Now I am looking forward to the two nights they will be here over Christmas. I will probably drive them nuts being their little shadow while they are here!
    Happy Holidays Renee!

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  23. I loved every word! And I was right there with you crying in the closet and being unable to breathe. Your son is an amazing young man and his insights and fearlessness are a direct reflection of your warm, generous spirit (oh, and maybe your husband’s, but he’ll have to get his own blog to get any credit ;-)). Happy holidays, darlin!

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  24. kristalzacharias41998454

    Renee: This was beautiful and made me cry. I was hoping since your son is older than my oldest (who is 8) – it gets “easier” to experience them growing up SO FAST. It’s not fair. I want to stop the clock… the lanky legs from growing any longer, the hand-on-hip attitude…I want my baby back too. Late at night when I put her too sleep, I come up real close to her face and take a mental snapshot – those big brown eyes the same as when she was a baby. Of course, I have also saved all the lost teeth. As you said, they are like diamonds – precious and one-of-a-kind.

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    • Kriztal: He is my only, so I’m no expert on child-rearing. And I do think certain things get easier. But then one of these tragedies occurs and it forces us to snap back and remember! Tech was driving me NUTS today, and I was short with him.

      And then I remembered again.

      Trying to keep that lesson in my heart. Have a happy new year!

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  25. I read this post as I was feeding my baby some jarred food (banana/peach/raspberry – yum!) and my two-year-old sat at the other end of the table, driving a little garbage truck here and there (gabage guck!! pshhhh. zzzzhhhhhhh!). I tried to prevent the tears from coming, but I felt the heat of emotion welling up anyways. “Grief isn’t logical,” indeed.

    I’m not into sentimental savings (mainly, I think, because I never know where to store them. I have a feeling I’ll regret my lack of sentimentality as I continue to age), but I’m pretty sure I kept some of Little Man’s first haircut.

    And, wow on Tech’s teeth having to be pulled. That is hard core. Enjoy your break. ❤

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    • Tori: I don’t think of myself as being particularly sentimental. But I do cry at almost every movie I watch. There is always some sad part that grabs at me. Tonight it was OCTOBER SKY. And my son said: “Mom, you are my hero.” (Actually, he said: “Dad, you are my hero. And so are you, Mom. Whatever. It counts.) Anyway, I’m not usually sentimental but when it comes to my son’s teeth…I don’t know. They just remind me of the magic beans that Jack’s mother had in Jack & the Beanstalk. I shake them and they seem powerful. Weird, huh? Here’s hoping you are enjoying your precious family right now!

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  26. Renee, what a great piece. MLB has the kids teeth in drawers, but she doesn’t know who’s are who’s.🙂

    I always asked her why she saved them, but she never had a good reason. I’ve always chalked it up to “mom-logic” and now that I’ve read your post, I think I’m right. hehehe.

    Have a great season with your family, my friend!

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    • It’s not logical, as I said. But those teeth a grounded in childhood and innocence. And because my son lost his last tooth on the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting. Well, it just felt like a really big day for innocence lost. *weep* Go hug your peeps, all if them, and go play in that Nebraska snow!😉

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  27. Such a sweet and beautiful post. I’m always a fan of posts that include Tech.

    BUT, as an aside, I have to tell that my mother-in-law gave me my husband’s teeth as part of our speech at our rehearsal dinner.

    Um . . . I would’t recommend that route. Just saying.

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  28. Renée, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch. I’ve been kind of a slacker in my blogging world. Sorry to hear that education has lost another wonderful teacher. I hope that whatever the next phase of your life brings, you will find it just as challenging and rewarding.

    I read this post and remembered my Dad’s ‘junk’ drawer that contained assorted baby teeth, and several of those little hospital bracelets with the baby’s name spelled out in tiny beads (Remember them?).

    Next I found your blog from a couple of years ago on bar/bat mitzvah gift giving. I did some quick math (remember, I used to be a teacher, too.) and figured out Tech Support’s (I love that name) bar mitzvah was last September. I would have loved to have heard your son read from the Torah. Then I start putting things together and think, “What kind of meshuganah kid is this? He becomes a man in September and loses his last baby tooth in December? Ah, kids these days. One day they want to be all grown up and the next day they want to crawl up on Mom’s lap with their blanky… and then, before any of us know what happened, they really are grown up, and we’re left wondering where the years went. Okay, I’m starting to sound like Tevye, so it must be time to go.

    I with you, the hubby, and especially Tech Support (I really love that name) I healthy, happy and prosperous New Year. Mostly, I wish you love.

    Jeff & Gamin

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  29. Boy…again you have me welling up. Such magnificent truths. My kids are 3 & 5 and I already fear in my deepest heart the moment when the natural separation begins. You capture it with such grace and power and quietude. Thank you Renee!

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