I start each and every day the same way. With a three way text that brings together Lodi, Orange County and Dublin, Ohio. We are committed. We are busy, busy, busy...with politics (we don't always agree), children (we always agree, they are difficult, but we are perfect), dating (one of us is single, she does not always like our advice), husbands (we always agree, I won't say about what), and the most important of all...our bitmoji fashion! And each and every morning...we laugh. Though miles apart, sometimes I will spit out my coffee and laugh. We find ourselves to be incredibly funny! And we are! We really are!!!
We met in college. I moved in to my sorority house, a bold move for a basically only child with nervous, insecure tendencies. Harper was my roommate. One of five roommates. She didn't come for a few days, and by the time she arrived, I was sick from sharing a room and starting to rethink this grand idea of sorority house living in a big way. Let's just say I had started to formulate my "exit strategy." In life it is very important to have an exit strategy for all things, and I was planning one quickly. With Harper came my last hope. Maybe she and I would connect, and she would be the answer to my prayers. Prayers were answered at 6:30 our first full morning together.
I am a life long non sleeper who wakes at the crack of dawn no matter what has transpired the night before. Up until 4 studying for mid terms? I still wake up at 6:30. Drinking until the bar closes? Still up at 6:30. This does not find you a lot of soul mates in college, and my three days in the sorority house had already shown me that the house stayed asleep until at least noon. On Harper's first morning I popped up at 6:30, and there she was, already awake. And that, was the beginning of best friend history.
Witt, our third bestie, would find her to way to us a few months later and we eventually all settled into the same room. Room one besties. Harper had an unusual circumstance. A circus like quality that made her uniquely interesting. She was missing a tooth. Born without it. Not noticeable to the regular human eye as she had been bestowed upon a magic retainer...with a fake tooth attached. As a three year roommate, I was acutely aware of said tooth. Before you waste any time feeling sorry for Harper as a toothless college student, don't. As sad as it is that she is toothless, Harper has also had a magical set of hair bestowed upon her as well. A luxurious, always blonde (without hair color added), ridiculous to this day at 40+ years of age, Christie Brinkley head of hair, that I am not the least bit bitter or jealous of. Except that I am.
In college, once you are 21 of course, there tends to be a certain amount of drinking, or maybe even over drinking that goes on. The 6:30 wake up was often groggy, unclear, lacking focus for the first few minutes. A collection of thoughts , if you will, a series of quick questions to be asked and answered. And for me those first few groggy moments often occurred as I stared right into Harper's tooth. The tooth had some rough nights. It could be discarded or misplaced carelessly upon arriving home, depending on how the night's activities had unfolded. Whatever the case may be, I was accustomed to waking up to either the tooth itself, or Harper frantically whispering, "Oh God, where is my tooth?"
There are several legendary stories in regards to the hunt for the missing tooth. My college sorority sisters get together once a year, and it turns out that many had been in hot pursuit of the allusive tooth during our years together. The missing tooth was important to find, as in college it is nice to have all your teeth in place when attending fraternity parties and socials.
It is in one such moment, when a hunt for the missing tooth is needed, that I make a fatal and tragic friendship misstep. I do not misstep alone, but do so with Witt. We betray our bestie and go on to face a Karma that I am still living out to this day.
One day the tooth is missing, again. Harper is certain it has been left at 7-11. Why the tooth would be at 7-11 is a question that remains unanswered to this day. She does not? cannot? will not? Is to embarrassed to? go look for the tooth. Witt and I are headed there for the mandatory daily diet and intake of Big Gulps and tootsie rolls, we agree to? volunteer? Give in to? Whatever the circumstance, we set out to find the tooth. Only, when we get there, the task seems harder then it did upon conception. The 7-11 worker is cute, it would be embarrassing to ask about a missing tooth. We are easily distracted, it seems bothersome to ask about the tooth. We are selfish, we don't want to ask about the tooth. It isn't our tooth? Is it necessary to embarrass ourselves and put ourselves out over this tooth? We are young and it turns out, bad friends. Not only do we not ask about the tooth, we return to the sorority house and lie. We announce we have asked about the tooth, it is not there, but we have left our name and number in case it is found. Harper will believe this story for the next 20 years.
Flash forward. I am a mother. I have four girls. I married a man with a genetic history of braces. I am at the dentist and orthodontist all the time. I am also less than observant. At some point, I don't want to say when she is 7 or 8, but it is that late in the game, we notice our third child is missing a tooth. Born without it. Same tooth as Harper. What are the odds? The missing tooth lands me in the orthodontist office where the kind, low talking, sensitive orthodontist begins talking me through the missing tooth and the steps that we will need to take to fix this situation. It is all very serious, except to me it is not.
Because I already know all he is going to say about the tooth. I have lived the life of the retainer, and the bridge, and the missing tooth and I know the steps. And not only that, but as he is telling us the steps...I am not a 30 something mother of four sitting respectfully in the orthodontist office hearing the plight of my poor toothless child, no, I am 20 and laying in my top bunk, looking at Harper's tooth every morning. So, I do what one does in this situation, I start to laugh. I start to quietly laugh, and then I laugh loudly. Which startles the orthodontist. Maybe other mothers with toothless children aren't laughing during his speech of procedures? They aren't. Because when you do the orthodontist, who is unaware of your tooth history, thinks you are laughing at your toothless child.
Well, there it was. My comeuppance. My pay back for the long ago tooth search lie. The tooth betrayal had come back to get me. I would take this bad Karma for both Witt and I. Lie on the sword for us both. Pay thousands for those tooth steps that needed to be followed, smile weakly at the orthodontist each visit when he gave me a condemning look, and yell my apologies each time the tooth was lost and I sent a daughter off to high school toothless. Clearly this was enough to even the score.
Only, it wasn't.
I went to the dentist last summer. A solid visit. Things seemed good. I am a lifelong inconsistent flosser. I know this. I also had gumms that were incredibly sensitive through four pregnancies, and then really rebelled after chemo. I have had some rough dental years, and finally I have my gumms and teeth back on track. And I had been flossing, a lot. I was on top of my dental game. My hygienist, who I think finds me frustrating (and by frustrating I mean crazy...once she told me coffee and red wine were staining my teeth, I told he I could not give up the coffee, but I would immediately switch to vodka and ditch the wine if needed), agreed that my teeth looked great. She was gloating, I was gloating, the dentist came in to check my mouth, he was gloating.
Have you ever seen Law and Order: Criminal Intent? In the early years there is this one detective who always says, "I have just one more question?" It is this "one more question," and it's answer, that will bring down the suspect who previously looked as though he would walk away free. This is what happened in the dentist chair, "Real quick, does this one tooth ever bother you?"
"Ummm, no, food gets stuck there a little, that's why I have been flossing more, but it doesn't hurt or anything. No real problem." And with that we were poking at the tooth, taking more x-rays, and sitting back in the chair. No, no...we were all gloating! We all agreed! Things were good...only they weren't.
I had TOOTH TRAUMA. A rarity. Something seen in professional football players. Very odd circumstance it would happen to me. He doesn't actually see many of these cases. And then began the list of steps that would be needed to take care of this.
Tooth extraction. Healing for 6 months. Post put in place. Healing for several months. New tooth put in. Oh, and a retainer...with a fake tooth...because you will be TOOTHLESS, at age 48, during the healing months.
Well, OK then. Karma was not finished with me. Once again, I would take my comeuppance. I would lie on the sword for Witt and I. Pay thousands for the steps to repair my tooth (insurance only covers tooth removal, not replacement...in case you were wondering). I sadly headed home (insert sad Charlie Brown music here) to text my besties of the cruel punishment that Karma had handed out to me. I texted out the news. Explained my tooth trauma, hit send and waited for Harper to respond unsympathetically, and for Witt to be humble and kind. Protective and sad for me. Supportive as she would know how unfair it was that all these years I, and I alone, had taken all our hits. I had been the one to suffer for the day we had made the tragic friendship misstep and betrayed Harper.
The response from Witt was this. "Oh my God, me too."
Wait. What? Me too? She must be joking. But she wasn't. At age 48, at precisely the same time, we were both diagnosed with TOOTH TRAUMA. At 48 we are toothless in our middle class suburbias. We are wearing "flippers" like we are 8 year old contestants on Toddlers and Tiaras. The teeth get lost. We have both had moments where the tooth is lost (theater parent club meetings and parent teacher conferences) and we know that there are discussions in which people may or may not think we are meth addicts.
There are many lessons to be learned from this I am sure. Be a good friend. Be a considerate person. Don't lie. The lesson I have learned is...when asked to look for a tooth? Do it. just do it. And also, just maybe, don't mess with Harper...the Karma will get you. Because Witt and I are toothless with mediocre hair at age 48, and Harper has a tooth (dental technology has improved since the 1980's), and still has her Christie Brinkley hair.