Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Make a Point: Use Yourself as the Bad Example

An Oma (Condensed) Storybook.
A true-ish story taken from Oma's childhood,
illustrated by photos from the Cousin's Club Photo Collection.

"Open wide," said Dr. Hall. I was sitting in the torture chair, with the dentist picking around between my gums. He looked over the holes left where my baby teeth had fallen out. "You have a little mouth," he said. "There's not room for your big teeth to grow in. We'll have to pull a few molars, use elastics and headgear to stretch your mouth bigger." We'll see about that, I thought to my chicken-hearted self. I'm basically a wimp who looks for the easy way off a painful path.
When I got home, I rushed to the mirror, opened wide and peered inside. Bubble gum had turned my tongue a ghastly purple, and I could see nothing pretty in there. Teeth twisted every which way—I needed a bigger mouth, and it wasn't going to be pleasant getting one.

Polly shoved me aside, wanting a turn at the mirror. Floppy white legs dangled over her shoulders with ribbons tied at the feet. My crazy little sister was wearing a pair of tights on her head, pretending she had long braids! "Why are you wearing Suzy-long-legs for hair?" I asked. "You look dopey!" She burst out crying. "You have a big mouth!" she yelled.

A big mouth—just what I needed! Maybe I could develop this skill and avoid some dental pain. It was actually pretty easy. I just said everything I thought, without thinking about it first. By the end of the day my sisters and my dad and brother, had all commented on my big mouth. Words were flying wildly and my tongue was out of control when I found Tommy pitching a pup-tent in the backyard.

"It's going to fall down," I teased. He didn't look up. "You're not a real cowboy," I said, and threw his pint-size ten-gallon on top of the carport. He pulled his cap-gun, but I took my best shot: "The fringe on your shirt is plastic," I whooped. Tommy looked down at his shirt with tear-filled eyes.

"That's enough, young lady," said a dark shadow behind me. "You can spend the rest of the day in your room." Mom's voice was soft and controlled. Mine wasn't.

"I hate you!" I yelled up at her. "I hate you!" I'll never forget the heartbreak in her eyes when I said those words. I had hurt the person who loved me most, even when I was the most unlovable. "I hate you." I said it softer this time, more to myself.

In my room I looked in the mirror. I saw a gargantuan tongue flopping around, out of control, and, just as everyone had told me, a big mouth. Even my teddy bear didn't want to get cozy with all the venom drooling out of my lips.

Mom knocked and then came in and sat on the bed. I couldn't stop looking at her lovely smile. And something I'd never noticed before—she had a crooked tooth!

"My mouth was too little for all my teeth," Mom explained, "and some of them crowded on top of each other. I didn't feel pretty for a long time. That's why I want you to have room for your teeth."

"Will I be pretty?" I asked between sobs.

"You know, Marty, ugly words always make a girl ugly, even if she has lovely lips and terrific teeth. Beautiful words always make a woman beautiful, even if her teeth are all skeewampus.

"Dr. Hall can use elastics and headgear to make your smile perfect, but if you have a big mouth, you won't be pretty." I understood what she meant by a big mouth.

At dinner that night I sat across from Polly. "I like your braids," I told her. Her dimple showed, and I knew my opinion mattered. That made me feel nice, so I said, "You can use my barrettes if you want to." I looked over at Tommy and asked, "Are you sleeping in your tent tonight?" He nodded, and straightened his hat. "Looking good, Cowboy," I said and felt even nicer.

"What did the dentist say, Marty?" Dad asked.

"He said my mouth wasn't big enough," I reported. "There's not much I can do, except be patient while he uses elastics and headgear to make it bigger."

Mom seemed to have forgotten my ugly words. "Marty's lovely lips won't have to hide anything unpleasant in her mouth," she said. "because her words are as pretty as her smile."

Not quite The End.
As Marty grew up, her challenge was always to control her tongue, and keep her big mouth shut a little more often. When she met Dee Halverson he told her his motto:

"Think over everything you say, but don't say everything you think."

Dee always said kind, thoughtful things so Marty decided to marry him. Even though she's now a 62-year-old Oma, she still has trouble controlling her tongue. She's learned to think over everything she says, but it's usually after she's already said it!

Luckily the people she loves are understanding. Her children and grandchildren are her best examples: they are beautiful because they think and say beautiful things. See for yourself!
(Just a few examples of teeth coming in every which way.)
The Cousins are all darling because of the sweet words
that decorate their smiles with love!

An Oma tip:
Tell a story about how you learned (or tried to learn) a lesson one of your posterity is working on right now. You'll have a new bond! It's good for kids to know Mom and Dad, Aunt Clara and Uncle Max and even Great-grandpa Hugh had a few habits to break and new skills to master.
Improvement can be a family affair!

Set a New Year's Goal to work on with a loved one,
just for fun!

1 comment:

Diane said...

I wish I'd had your story to learn from. My mouth was in the shape of the foot I was usually pulling out of it for much of my young life. It's been the best lesson to learn to think before I speak. I'm still working on it.