I knew it was going to happen.
I could feel in in my mama-bones.
"Mom!" Zay shouts. He sprints across the lawn, little arms pumping at his sides. When he reaches me his hair is rumpled from the run and he's breathing fast.
"My tooth," he says between gulps of air. "It's loose!"
He plunges two garden-dirty fingers into his mouth as I put down my watering can and cringe.
Isaiah wriggles. And pushes. And the tiny white tooth, the one that was the culprit years ago when he howled all night because he was teething like mad, moves from side to side. When he's finished tugging it's crooked - like one leaning post in a perfect-picket smile.
"You're right, Zay," I say. "It's finally happened. I'm so happy for you."
And I mean it. The joy on his face makes my own heart flutter. He's waited and watched the brothers for a lot of years. But to be completely honest, I'm sad, too. Really sad. Zay is the baby-child and this is the end of the baby-teeth smiles.
"Will she come?" he asks. "If my tooth comes out, will the fairy come tonight?"
"I hope so," I say. And I do. But we've had a little trouble with the fairy. She's forgetful. Or maybe overworked. Whatever her deal is, sometimes it takes a night or two for her to get the job done.
"We might have to give her grace."
"Oh," he says. He squints into the sun and turns his face toward me. "I was hoping not to have that fairy."
I smile at my son. It's funny, really. It's a family joke - the fairy's struggles. I start to laugh and Zay does, too. And then we're standing there, in the sun, sharing something sweet, and I make the mistake. I look at him.
My son has lost the little-boy roundness. His feet stretched into big sandals this year. He's nearly as tall as Gabe.
And now he's losing teeth.
I can't help it. The tears mingle with the laughter for a moment and then there are just tears.
"What's wrong, Mama?" Zay asks. It's natural for him to twine his arms around my neck.
"Nothing," I say. I try to get it under control. I don't want to steal his joy. I don't like it when I do this. But seeing how fast my boys grow makes me unglue.
Zay looks confused. His eyes squint and his nose crinkles and he's about at inch from my face.
"Maybe I just need a hug," I say.
Zay's good at this. He holds me tight. Next time maybe I'll hold it together better. But for now, those arms sure feel nice.
The tooth fairy and me.
She has her issues.
I have mine.
Sometimes a girl just needs extra grace.