I remember being barefoot and gliding through the sky in the shade of a tree. My heart was pounding as I took great gulps of air, I was terrified and invincible all at once as I pumped my legs forward and back willing myself to go higher and higher. To my right my best friend was going through the same motions, back and forth high in the air pumping her legs. Our swings went higher and higher each time.
I arched my spine and leaned back as far as I could to make myself more aerodynamic. I could feel the breeze play on my skin and I thought I might never stop going higher and higher. What happened next I can only see in slow motion. I can remember no sound, imagine no sound. All I see is an 8 year old me look too quickly to the side, see the chain of the swing twist and then my whole body twist with it. My face sped forward and then?
8 year old Cami, white blond and with long limbs and impossibly large blue eyes took a mouthful of chain before her body curled together, flew through the air and dropped to the ground.
To go from that moment of absolute freedom, as close as I ever came to flying, to the hard sun warmed earth was devastating. The wind was knocked from my chest. I gasped for air to inhale nothing and then I spat out a chunk of tooth.
By the time I was able to breathe again my mom and my friend’s mom were right there trying to make heads or tales of the situation. As it happened, my head and tail were the only things injured.
And that is how, just months after my adult front teeth came in I broke one.
I was an incredibly awkward child and painfully shy, though I dealt with it by making such a large production of life that all anyone every saw was my wake… they never saw me. I hated the way I looked, the way I spoke, the way I dressed. I’d hated having that big empty space in my mouth where my two front teeth should have been, so to me this was devastating… the end of the world as we know it (and I didn’t feel fine).
No longer could I disarm people by flashing a pearly smile at them. No longer could I obey the stupid school photographer taking a hideous picture of me when he said “Give me a big smile now”.
It was more than 4 years before I had that tooth fixed, more than 4 years before my smile resembled something I was comfortable with…
Shortly thereafter we realized that the chipped tooth was the least of the problems caused that day I almost flew. I wound up having multiple procedures done to fix dental damage and as a result, I still am not comfortable with my teeth and have the most tight lipped smile of anyone I know.
What I find odd about this is that I tend to be just fine with my many other flaws… some of them I even revel in. What makes me flawed also makes me distinct… my own person.
I’m in the process of having my front teeth fixed and I have no doubt that the dentist is doing a wonderful job, I can see a difference already. Progress is being made.
I wonder though if I’ll ever be comfortable posing my lips in anything except that tight lipped wry grin I’ve fallen back on for so many years.