When I was about seven years old, we went out of town for my cousin’s wedding. While there, another cousin took us swimming at someone’s house. I don’t remember whose house…I was seven…I didn’t care…I was getting to go swimming!
Now I’ve always been a pretty good swimmer. I believe I started swimming when I was around 5 because it was the first time I had access to a pool. Speaking of which…let me back up because that’s a fun story too.
When I was five years old and still really thought my dad was awesome…he took me to the public pool in Lockney where we lived. He was a great swimmer. He would let me ride on his back and he would swim under water while I held on. I loved it. One day he told me to go down the water slide and he would catch me. He did. Then he said I could go again…only this time he did not catch me…he was too far away. He said “come on, swim to me”…at which point I just automatically did what came naturally…I dog paddled to him. He caught me up, turned me to look at the slide, which was now several feet away, and said “Look, look how far you swam. You can swim!” And I have been like a little fish ever since.
For the record…that’s one of the few really good memories I have with my dad. We’ve had issues over the years. But that’s a whole other set of blogs.
Fast forward to my being seven and taken to this house with a pool and a diving board. I loved it. I was fearless about the water and would swim and jump and flip and whatever anyone thought of to do. Being seven…I was somewhat small. So I decided that it would be a great idea to crouch down under the water, grab the ledge of the pool, and shoot up out of the pool and onto the side…this was a great way to get out of the pool without having to use the ladder! Stroke of genius. And it was fun too. I did it several times.
Then…not so fun. I crouched down, grabbed the ledge, shot upward…and my foot slipped on the bottom of the pool. I shot straight INTO the ledge of the pool…with my face. My mouth hit the concrete ledge. My lips were both smashed and bloody. My cousin came and grabbed me out of the pool. I was in pain and pretty violently crying and holding my face. She was terrified. They got me cleaned up…only to realize that not only were my lips split and a total mess…my front tooth was missing a piece…about a quarter of the tooth. I was miserable looking at my mangled mouth in the mirror.
We looked around the pool for the piece that was knocked out…but we never found it. I was told that it was very likely that I swallowed it. Um…yuck. Either way…it was gone and there was a big hole in my smile.
At the wedding…I refused to smile without covering my mouth with my hand. I was terribly embarrassed for anyone to see it. Then my cousin Terry…who was a rodeo cowboy that rode bulls and saddle bronc…came over and took my hand away from my mouth. I got really shy and looked at the ground and he said “Hey, look…” and he smiled at me. He had a badly chipped front tooth too. I smiled back. It was the first time I smiled without covering it up.
After that I just started getting used to it. It was not as noticeable as I thought it was. People rarely commented on it. Even kids in school never really made fun of it. They were way more interested in making fun of my name or my clothes. I never got teased about the tooth. We looked into fixing it once…but at that time, it was exorbitantly priced and dentistry hadn’t come nearly as far. So we let that go. It just became part of me.
Fast forward again…to age 36. I got engaged and decided I would go have a little dental work and get my teeth cleaned before my wedding. For the record…I have very bad teeth…something about mom having a calcium deficiency while pregnant. I have very strong bones…but very weak teeth. And growing up poor…dental work is not high on the list of “needs”. So I wanted to get the worst stuff taken care of first. I told the dentist I was not interested in having the broken tooth fixed…that I wanted the other stuff done. But the dentist absolutely insisted that we were fixing it so it didn’t decay. I argued at first but he insisted.
So I got it fixed. 28 years of having a broken front tooth…and suddenly it’s fixed. It was so weird to see it in the mirror. I left the dentist’s office and went to my mom’s job and just smiled at her. She said “wow.” I showed my fiancé and he said “looks great”…he had never cared that it was broken anyway.
I went to lunch with my best friend not long after and she didn’t even notice. She kept looking at me oddly like she knew something was different…but couldn’t figure it out. “That’s what it is!” she said, when I finally told her.
It was a small thing and totally not that noticeable. But it’s odd how it made a difference. It’s odd how my thinking came full circle about it. First I hated it and was embarrassed…then I just didn’t care…then I fought to keep it…then I loved having it fixed. It’s strange how your thinking will change about things over the years and how the importance of certain things will change. Funny how much your view can change on something…practically overnight.
There’s a saying that says “It’s the little things”…but honestly, sometimes it’s not.