Before her seventh birthday, her family arrived in Alaska from the “Lower ‘48”, after driving over fifteen-hundred miles of unpaved highway on “The Alcan”. Summer bloomed when they moved into an age darkened log cabin on Sixth Street in Fairbanks.
“Mom, my tooth hurts.” Mary’s Mom lay on her side of her parent’s bed, facing Mary, in the one bedroom that the family of six shared. Mom’s face moved slightly, burrowing further into the bedding.
“Mom? It hurts,” afraid that her Mom would not respond; also afraid of Mom’s impatience and annoyance. Mary put her small hand on her Mom’s shoulder, and nudged it, just a little. Mary’s mother’s head lifted, her eyes squinted in the dark room as she woke.
“My tooth,” she put her little hand back on her left cheek. It hurt so bad, she wanted to cry, but held back tears, and felt the tightness in the back of her throat from the effort.
Mary padded behind her mother, out the door-less bedroom area, to the bathroom, where she retrieved the aspirin. Through the living room, then into the kitchen they slipped, across cold floors, patches of linoleum and wood, with the occasional interruption of thick rag rugs.
Mary choked to get the aspirin down, “It hurts my tooth.”
“Think of swallowing M&M’s,” Mom turned away from the table I sat upon.
She reached high on a shelf by the big black wood-stove, shuffling metal spice tins around. Dodging the table, she retrieved a few wooden toothpicks from above the sink. She wet the ends of a toothpick under the water faucet, dipped it into the red and white tin of ground clove, turned to Mary, and said, “Open now, cloves take away pain”, as she packed cloves into and around the offending molar.
It didn’t help much. Mom, up all night applying ground Clove and dispensing aspirin, did not get much sleep. Nothing helped for long. The next morning, the two of them went to the dentist.
The tooth area hurt terribly, and then the dentist stood above Mary, reclined in the dentist chair. The silvery needle with the syringe of Novocain rested between the dentist’s fingers, thumb poised for depressing.
“This may to hurt a little,” he lied.
Mary’s nose wrinkled at the smelled of the alcohol and pain killer, as the dentist forced the fluid into the swollen tissue around her tooth, and tears squeezed between her clenched eyelids. He withdrew the needle, turned away, then back to her with another full syringe.
“You’re doing fine,” he lied again.
Back at home, Mom tucked the patchwork quilt snugly around Mary in her bed, and came back to check on her often, bringing things to drink and more aspirin. Pain came later, after the Novocain wore off, but not as painful as the Novocain injection. Mary loved having her Mom’s attention all to herself that afternoon. Rare, with three siblings, and her Dad around for her Mom to take care of also.
“Life feels good,” Mary thought, “Mom loves me.”
This excerpt from my fictional auto-biography is dedicated to my Mom, Vivian Eileen (Foster, Orrison) Greenway.