Carrie squirmed and smacked the arms of the chair with her hands as the orthodontist’s assistant held the tray of molding material on her teeth. It looked to me as though she were making a big deal out of nothing, but 30 years ago I threw up on the poor assistant who made my impressions, so who am I to judge?
“What is this for, anyway?” Carrie demanded to know once the tray was removed.
“This is a mold,” the hygienist explained. “We will use it to make an exact copy of your teeth. Your impressions. Years from now, when your braces come off, we can look back and see how much things have changed! Ready for the bottom tray?”
There was a squish, more squirming, then mug shot-style photographs, a panoramic x-ray of Carrie’s teeth, and a consultation with the orthodontist.
The orthodontist clicked through Carrie’s mug shots on the computer monitor. She silently studied the x-ray. Rubbed her temples. Sighed. Muttered something (an expletive?) under her breath.
“Well, she is very delayed in losing teeth,” the orthodontist explained. “She hasn’t lost but four; two on the top and two on the bottom. Her mouth is very small. She is really quite delayed.”
Something about the word “delayed” stings the ears of a parent. Even when it is teeth that are being discussed. And even when it is true.
The panoramic x-ray was really something. Beneath Carrie’s gums is a dense hoard of permanent teeth. They are crowded together, pushing frantically against one another in an effort to get one of the few spots on the gum line. There isn’t enough room for them all. They are like aggressive concert goers at a general-admission show.
The orthodontist (in whom I was very impressed, by the way) quickly ran down her concerns. Crowding. Cross bite. Overbite. Narrow palate. A permanent tooth was missing. Another was impacted. The palate would have to be expanded with some frightening device involving a key, I have to turn the key two times each day, and even with the extra space that is created, three permanent teeth will still need to be extracted.
“Wow,” Carrie said. “It sounds like there is everything wrong with my mouth that can be wrong.”
“Not at all,” the orthodontist said. “We do this all the time. Just wait.”
Don’t be surprised if that panoramic x-ray ends up on our Christmas card this year, because it looks as much like our family right now as anything I’ve seen in months. Your family too, I suspect.
There are so many people, activities and responsibilities in my life. Just like those teeth. They are all crowded against one another, vying for a choice spot in what is a finite amount of time. Work. School. Soccer. Fencing. Exercise. Family meals to prepare. Church services to attend. Grandparents to visit. Marriages to nurture. Friendships to enjoy. There are toilets to scrub. Concerts to attend. Blogs to write. Weekly appointments with the orthodontist.
Some of these things are chores, many of them are pleasures, and I don’t really want to extract any of them. I don’t even want them growing in crooked or behind one another, as far as that goes. I want them to line up perfectly, the facets of my life. I want them to fit one another, top over bottom. But they don’t. Not now. I knew I wouldn’t be able to “do it all” once I became a mother, but I foolishly assumed I’d be able to do half of it. I’m so very delayed in coming to terms with this.
I haven’t run in days. I fed my kids Zaxby’s twice last week. I fell asleep last time my husband and I watched television together, and I am typing this post from a bare mattress even though the sheets are out of the dryer.
I feel like my daughter. I feel like there is everything wrong with me that can be wrong. But I called my mother today, so that is something. I spend the weekend with an old friend. My husband is a good sport. I guess I will figure out how to expand my availability, key turn by key turn. People do it all the time, don’t they? Maybe years from now I can look back on this post, this crowd of desperate words, this impression on my life as a mother, and see just how much things have changed.