Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Tooth

It is arguable whether or not I used a mirror on a regular basis in elementary school.  I say this because I had a huge front tooth--a really huge front tooth--but I did not seem to be aware of it.  This tooth was a real oddity.  Let's see if you can imagine this--two front teeth fused together with a tooth growing out the back and two tiny teeth growing off of that.  Whew!  Oh, and it was slightly crooked...of course.  This was the left front chomper that grew in as my permanent tooth.

As I mentioned, for some reason, I didn't think that there was anything wrong with this tooth.  I would actually have regular conversations about it with my classmate, Hank Boka, in the second grade.  That year our desks were paired face-to-face, so he spent a lot of time examining the tooth.

Hank:  "Why is your tooth so big?"

Me:     "What do you mean?"

Hank:  "I mean, why is your front tooth so huge!"

Me (completely serious):  "What are you talking about?  Everyone's front teeth are bigger than the rest of their teeth.  Don't you look in the mirror?"

Geesh, I would think, what an idiot!  I have no doubt that exact same thought was running through his mind.

But, my "normal" tooth soon began to give me terrible toothaches, and after an unsuccessful root canal, the dentist decided that the mega tooth had to go.  The tooth extraction is not a fond memory because the root of this tooth was also huge, and the whole process was like trying to pop a seashell out of your gums.  But, afterward I got a standing ovation from the people in the waiting room (all four of them), and the Tooth Fairy brought me a bike (take that, Hank Boka).

And then I got the flipper, or basically a tooth hooked onto a retainer.

As a fourth grader, this was a great hit.  I could pop my front tooth out at will, and I was repeatedly asked to do so by my classmates.  It also came in very handy for pranks, or just general grossing people out.  It even helped me win a prize at my friend Jessie Heiss's birthday party that year.  The theme was dress like a hobo, and while other people tried blacking out a front tooth, mine was the real deal.  You just can't top that.

So, the flipper was great fun.  That is, until I broke it for the first time.

My Grandma Theresa worked at a  little drugstore in town called Welch's, and whenever I was out riding my bike, I would stop by because I liked to visit with my Grandma, but more importantly, because she would always give me candy.  On this particular occasion, I got a Blow-Pop.  I've always been impatient with suckers, so once I was back out on the street, I bit right into it.  As I was chewing, I felt something similar to a little pebble in my mouth.

What could that be? I thought as I reached into my mouth and pulled out....MY TOOTH!  Well, actually it was just the little white part on the front.  I immediately began to panic.  Oh no, oh no.  Mom is not going to be happy about this.  What can I do.  Be calm, Gretchen.  What can I do!

And then it dawned on me--Elmer's glue.  It's white and dries clear.  It's the perfect fix!

Needless to say, it wasn't.  And after that, my Mom always made sure I had a spare one in the medicine cabinet.  Which was helpful when I later broke it chewing on our car upholstery or when I threw it up and accidentally flushed it down the toilet.  You know, common false tooth mishaps.

I shared five fun-filled years with that flipper before getting it permanently installed with a Maryland Bridge.

No, not that kind.  This kind.

But, I sometimes still wish I could take my tooth out, if only to scare someone, or to make myself have a lisp, or to come closer to my West Virginia roots...the possibilities really are endless.
Third grade photo featuring "the tooth"

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