Thursday, July 4, 2013

Four on the Fourth

Back when I was whatever age you are when you start losing your teeth--baby teeth, I should say, as that other age is still ahead of me--I accomplished a pretty remarkable feat that has since been celebrated in Grady family history. Not continuously, mind you, as I did not reveal my accomplishment to the world until about a decade later, when at last I no longer feared the repercussions of sharing my secret triumph with well-meaning but over-protective parents who, let's be honest, lack the stomach for danger that is requisite to a genuine appreciation of heroism. OK, heroism on a fairly minor scale, in this case. Maybe "highly unusual deeds" would be more accurate, but definitely that. Probably even "deeds never before performed, at least in this school district by someone who has seen The Empire Strikes Back four times.

So it was the Fourth of July. My family was having a small backyard party, which right off the bat gives this story an air of fantasy, since my family was not exactly known for hosting parties, but it's true. Like any kid, all I could think about was fireworks. My parents are even less known as blowing-stuff-up types than as hosters of parties, so our personal stash of "explosives" was admittedly a fairly modest haul. Still, we had more sparklers than you could shake one of those incense-like firework lighting things my dad always called a "punk" at, and a whole bunch of those little black pellets that would glow into little shrivelled "snakes" of ash and gas the whole neighborhood with noxious fumes. Not to mention those flower things that spin on the ground and change colors, a smoking log cabin, one of those ones that you nail to the wall and it spins around and shoots out sparks, and the coup de grace: a Piccolo Pete. If you don't know what that is, congratulations, you probably still have the ability to hear an actual piccolo.

Like I said, a fairly modest haul, but still, those fireworks were all I could think about. That, and my loose tooth--cuspid, top row, tooth-loser's left. It had already been loose for a couple of days, so I figured it had to be ready to come out. The tooth fairy had been pretty good to me when I pawned my two front teeth for cash, and the prospect of making a deal with a tooth fairy who just might have some leftover fireworks--c'mon, c'mon, just some bottle rockets or a roman candle--had me feeling pretty giddy. I had to get that tooth out while it was still the Fourth of July, and that meant finishing the deed before the guests arrived. I got right to work.

A little hard work and determination saw that tooth out in no time, with hours to spare before it would be dark enough for fireworks. As I contemplated how to pass the idle time, a lesson learned from losing my two from teeth suddenly occured to me: there's another one just like it on the other side!

By now you can surely see where this is going, so I'll spare you the gory details of the twisting, the tugging, the string around the tooth tied to the doorknob (that doesn't work); sorry, I said I'd spare you the details. The crucial moment came when it dawned on me, somewhere after I managed to wedge my tongue in underneath number two, that in fact I had four canines, and if one was ready to go then the other three almost certainly would be as well. Dogs do everything in groups.

For those still disinclined to believe that I lost four on the Fourth, I assure that visual evidence exists. (edit: Yep, here it is!)

Somewhere among the family photo albums (Ellie, do you have a copy?) there is a picture of my from later that night, watermelon stains on my Izod polo, sparkler held proudly aloft, and me screaming in delight as I reveal four gaping holes in my toothy grin. Honestly, I don't know how they didn't notice. They must have been distracted by my awesome, side-parted bowl cut.

Anyway, I bring this up for a reason, and I swear it's actually running related. Never one to miss an opportunity to commemorate the occasion, Petya asked me this morning how we would celebrate this year. "What should we do four on the Fourth of?" she asked. When I suggested we could run four miles she laughed, then agreed. "Starting next year, we run four miles together every Fourth of July," she said, pausing for a moment before adding, "But if we're in Europe we run four kilometers." So just like that, another Grady family tradition is born.

Happy Fourth of July to you and your family, and may you only lose four of something you were looking to get rid of anyway.

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