Many children go through an awkward stage. My awkward stage was of the extended variety. First of all, I was the fat sister. When shopping for jeans, I had to get ‘husky’ fit, whereas my dainty little sister had to get ‘super slims’ or something equally offensive to the husky sister. In addition to my childhood chub-factor, I had great teeth, that is, if I had I been a child of the woodchuck variety. In fact, my mom used to remind me to brush my teeth by saying, “Don’t forget to brush your bucky-beavers.” Is there really any wonder my self-esteem spontaneously combusted before I even reached puberty? By the innocent age of 10, my self-image amounted to one of a grossly obese bucked-tooth rodent. Nothing says fun for a bucktooth chubby girl like putting on a bathing suit and going to the public swimming pool. What can I say? Even fat bucktooth girls like to have fun, so when my friend, Nikki, (yes, I had friends) invited me to go, I went.
Nikki’s mom accompanied us to the public swimming pool and we got down to kids-in-the-summer-at-the-pool business. Splashing and swimming on the shallow end of the pool was fine, if you were a baby, but Nikki and I weren’t babies! Heck no! We were ten and we had to pass the ‘swim test’. The swim test consisted of swimming back and forth the 25- yard width of the pool under the watchful eye of the teenage lifeguards. Completing this feat without drowning granted us admittance into the kingdom of the exclusive (insert dramatic pause here)…the deep end. This was the time before we wore helmets or seatbeltsand we could play outside after dark. This was the age of a public pool having a low dive and a high dive!! A legally sanctioned ‘danger zone’ of sorts and we had a ball. We plunged from the high dive and flipped and flopped from the low dive. We did back dives, front flips, cannon balls and can openers; unaware that injury was just around the corner.
After my turn of going off the low dive, I had circumvented the ladder exit and opted to get out of the pool by stepping onto the gutter and hoisting my chubby butt out of the pool. Note: I can only speculate on two reasons for me to have chosen this way out of the pool. I was either too darn lazy to swim the rest of the way to the ladder or I was trying get ahead of other kids in the line for the diving board. Either way, I always tend to deviate from the customary route in life. It rarely ends well. This was no exception. As I was climbing out of the pool, my hand slipped and I fell back into the water, but not before catching my ‘bucky-beavers’ on the concrete lip of the swimming pool. I managed to climb out of the pool and I thought I had paint from the pool on my teeth because they felt weird on my tongue. However, when I opened my mouth to tell the super-cute head life guard, Jimmy, that I was okay, the wind hit the wet exposed nerves where my teeth had broken off and instead I howled like banshee! It was white hot blinding pain.
I am not really sure how Nikki’s mom was alerted to my dental dilemma, but I remember she was there telling me to keep my towel over my mouth. Before getting into her car so she could rush me to my dentist, I looked at my teeth in the reflection in the car window. Holy Mother of God, my bucky-beavers had been reduced to the jagged nubs of an aging opossum! I was hideously more hideous than I had ever been! I sort of started to panic and I wailed behind my clamped mouth, which held the stalactites that were once my teeth. Dr. Jackson, however, remained calm and despite my wet, wiggling, bawling self, managed to build me back a brand new set of ‘bucky-beavers’! Dr. Jackson—dentist to some, miracle worker to one.
My mother had arrived at the dentist office to bear witness to my latest adventure. Her relief to the restoration of my bucky beauties was nearly palpable, which lends credit to the old saying about not knowing what you have until it’s at the bottom of the public swimming pool. I was told I could eat or drink just like normal but I should avoid drinks like tea and grape juice, because they might stain the bonded parts of my teeth. My mom fixed chicken for dinner and as I bit into a chicken leg, one of the bonded teeth broke off and the saga started all over again (only I wasn’t in a bathing suit). Mom doctored me with Tylenol and pity and the next day Dr. Jackson rebuilt my tooth again and this time it was for good.
I am happy to report that I still have the bonded teeth that Dr. Jackson built for me when I was 10 years old. They have endured three sets of braces, several retainers, and a couple rounds of bleaching. Looking at pictures of my ten-year-old self for this blog post, I realized that I wasn’t fat. In fact, I wasn’t even a chubby kid. It is curious what things my childhood brain absorbed and molded into my reality. It is completely amazing to me the impact that buying into one bogus belief created a persona, which I have struggled nearly my entire lifetime to overcome. Leave it to me to try and shatter the stigma of being a fat kid, when I was never even actually a fat kid! Trust me; I didn’t need to invent reasons to be self-conscious. If your teeth stick out of your head far enough to catch on the lip of a swimming pool, that’s probably reason enough!