July 18, 2007

Who is she? This girl child/woman who has taken up residence here? Five minutes ago she sat napping in her baby swing. But now she seems on the brink of a life larger than herself.

My daughter got braces on Monday. Not a big deal, right? Lots of kids get braces (and lots of parents pay for them like we are — on the installment plan — so frighteningly large is the total number that I can only let myself think about it in smaller monthly chunks or I wake up in a cold sweat). But Abby isn’t lots of kids in so many wonderful and challenging ways. As I’ve mentioned here previously, she’s not really a dentist kind of girl, so the actual getting of the braces had taken on a monumental life of its own. We had a countdown on the calendar. We had talked and prayed and cried. And Monday she was ready.

“Mommy, I’m just going to say to myself, ‘You have to do this, Abby. It’s just going to be worse if you drag it out. Just do it.'” Nike would be proud of my daughter because that’s exactly what she did. She agonized over the color choices (yes, braces come in colors! now that can be changed at each appointment) before finally settling on green and black. We dosed her up on ibuprofin, but Monday night she broke down — after an incredibly brave showing — and told me that she wished she could take them off, “just for a minute, Mom.” They hurt and felt funny.

I remember so clearly my first night with braces in the June after 7th grade. My mom cut the corn off the cob for me that night, but even taking tiny small bites made my mouth ache. And I had waited so long for my braces. To be blunt, Abby and I have both suffered from pretty phenomenal bucked teeth — yeah, we have crappy recessed jaws and too many teeth crammed in mouths too small (hard to believe I actually have a small mouth, isn’t it?). My grade school years practically revolved around kids making fun of my bucked teeth, and wow did that impact my self image for years. Truly, I was in my twenties before I stopped feeling like I had bucked teeth. And I had to wait until I was 13 to get braces because of how slowly my adult teeth came in. I am so grateful to God — I mean, really grateful — that braces are done in 2 phases now, and that the early phase starts when the child’s first 8 teeth come in. Honestly, I worried for Abby that she would suffer the same meanness I did, and I am so glad, SO GLAD, that these braces will make such an aesthetic difference for her. Please don’t misunderstand this as vanity on her behalf — it’s just that life for a girl in this culture is plenty difficult, plenty fraught with pain, without adding something that makes one markedly different than other girls her age.

These braces have had an unexpected consequence, though…Abby just seems…older. More adolescent to me. And all of a sudden, I see this glimmer in her — a glimmer of the truly beautiful woman she is unfolding to be. Her beautiful brown eyes and long dark eyelashes, her high cheekbones, her long lithe limbs. And of course, her smile. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve always loved my daughter’s smile. Her first smile all those too many years ago honed right in on my heart. But sometimes when she smiles at me now, her face almost transforms for me. And I can see forever and ever.


7 Responses to “Braces”

  1. kjames said

    awww! i can’t wait to see how she looks with them on!

  2. john McCollum said


    I’m afraid you might melt them or somehow magnetize them with your newly acquired radioactive superpowers.

  3. Andy Whitman said

    Karen can take X-rays by blinking her eyes. Beth, you might want to take her along for the next dentist appointment to cut down on the bills.

    And I think you’re a great mom. And Karen, too. And John, too.

  4. Erica said

    Dang it! You made me cry!
    You stop that, Beth Koruna!

  5. kjames said

    maybe i can automatically straighten her teeth just by looking at them, thus saving beth and tim thousands of dollars. ever think of THAT?

  6. kjames said

    andy, john’s a good mom? wow. i had no idea.

  7. Beth said

    I’ve always said that John was a wonderful mother.

    Karen — if you COULD save us money, I’ll bring the kids over RIGHT NOW! 😀

    And Erica — With your homones, I could probably make you cry by talking about carpet right now! 😀

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