When I was 6 I had this friend Doug. One winter day while we were sledding, one of his teeth fell out. It was the first time this happened to him, and he started bawling. He had the tooth in his hand and his mouth was bleeding. His mom came running down the hill, fell once and slid, got back up, crouched down in front of him and held him.
The next day, before we could make fun of him, he flashed some green at us. A dollar! We were all impressed. No one got nearly that much from the Tooth Fairy. I only got 10 cents. This was the 1970’s, so a dollar was a lot of money for a kid. My mom was there, and she said “Wow! The best of both worlds. You get a dollar and the tooth will grow back.” Doug’s eyes got wide. He didn’t know teeth grew back.
The next day Doug reported that he lost another tooth. And it kept happening. I started watching him at school. His fingers were always in his mouth. He was wiggling his teeth to get them loose.
Pretty soon it seemed like he had nothing but his back teeth, but he was rolling in the dough. He acted so sad and his parents felt so bad for him that they kept upping the payoff. Boy he bought a lot of Star Wars action figures!
Doug whistled when he talked and couldn’t chew well. He had to mash up his food to get it down. The older kids started calling him “Gerber”, and he didn’t like that. Doug was pretty big, so he hit them to make them stop. Those he couldn’t take he left to his older brother. We felt that had to call him something, so we settled on “Gums.” No one got hit for that, so it stuck.