Over Christmas, an elderly lady from my church gifted me a box of Whitman’s Samplers. I love Whitman’s. I don’t always follow the diagram on the box that identifies each candy, as I rather like the element of surprise.
We have a real problem with those black sugar ants, so my husband advised me to refrigerate the sampler. Later, when I realized each candy had hardened, I shrugged and got to snacking. This was a very, very bad idea.
One of my teeth complained after biting into a candy with a caramel center. At first, I thought I had just bruised it. There was pain and a little bleeding but it tapered off. I didn’t give it another thought–until I felt like there was something trapped in between that tooth and another. A bit of flossing wrangled the annoyance onto the bathroom counter.
A piece of tooth. I had broken my tooth.
My husband took one look and said, “Yep. You’re going to have to go to the dentist.”
Let me explain something to you, dear reader. I have not been to the dentist since I got my wisdom teeth cut out prior to going to college, about a decade ago. I’ve always used the excuse of not having dental insurance for why I haven’t gone. But, with that bit of glistening enamel in hand, I realized I had no other option.
I hate the dentist. There’s no real reason. I’ve never had a bad experience. But, as I sat in the waiting room, anxiety curled in my stomach like food poisoning. I fidgeted, trying to focus on my book and failing utterly. If my leg wasn’t jiggling, then my fingers tapped. With each passing moment, the anxiety mounted until I thought I was going to scream.
Most times, I can understand why I become anxious. Bad day at work. Confrontation with someone. Having to stand in front of people to speak. A large crowd or a press of people. There’s always a reason. But I couldn’t think of one, as I sat in the waiting room, trying to distract myself by looking at a mural.
The mural depicted dolphins leaping out of the water and crabs scuttling along a sandy strip of beach. It reminded me of Flagler Beach, where I’ve spent many a summer, and I tried to focus on calming memories. None of it worked.
I suddenly craved my teddy bear. And not just any teddy bear. Not the one my husband bought me when we were still dating. Not the one my father bought me after I pulled it from a pile in Wal-Mart, when I was all of nine. But this tiny brown one that I’ve had my entire life. I don’t even know where it came from. I’ve always had it. And its name is the unimaginative “Teddy”.
I wanted Teddy. I wanted to hold him to my belly, maybe curl up in a corner, and wait for my name to be called. Screw reasons behind the anxiety. I wanted my stuffed animal.
Looking back, I still don’t get it. I haven’t craved the comfort of a stuffed animal in years. Something about that trip to the dentist set me off, perhaps some memory I’ve pushed down deep. A lot of my childhood exists behind a wall. I can remember bits and pieces from my very young years, before age five, but then there’s this black hole from then to about nine or ten. After that, the memories are still fairly spotty until I’m in my mid-teens.
That wall frightens me. There is a reason why I made myself forget. And I’m not entirely certain I wish to discover that reason. I know enough about my parents, now, to hazard a guess and that guess is enough to make my stomach cramp. So, I back away from that wall. Some mysteries, I am more than happy to live with.
As for the dentist: I have a big cavity. Issues with my insurance are slowing up treatment but I’ll probably get a filling before they’ll try a root canal or pulling it. And next time…I’m taking my teddy bear. I defy anyone to make fun of me!