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Those California Smiles

It’s funny, thinking back to when we were kids. Unconsciously taking each moment as it came, not worried that standing in the rain would make our clothes wet and we’d be cold later, or that too many cupcakes would head straight to our thighs, and never second guessing that the people around us had anything but unqualified love for us. It’s only when we grew a little more, when our brains were roused from childhood slumber, that our thoughts became a little more conscious, and we learned to worry about more superficial things. Once innocent thoughts became tainted with the mundane realities of “life.” And of course, maturation continued and the thoughts evolved into grown-up beliefs and realisations.

One of these realisations for me was the recognition of old people’s teeth. I believe that many people would agree with me when I say that old people have a special sense about them. It’s funny to look at one (old person) and note that they too, were once a baby, once a child, and lived out their whole adult life as well. And upon passing the threshold into becoming “elderly,” came a certain essence that reverberates in the people around them. I think children, especially, unconsciously summon this innate feeling in the presence of elderly people. Perhaps it’s something to do with being at paradoxical ends of the life-spectrum, or something. It comes in the form of an unabashed love; it lives in their hearts because they’ve not yet grown into that state of self-awareness that is cultivated with age.

I used to believe that all elderly people had nice teeth. I remember feeling perceived confusion, however slight, at why people got old and ended up with nice teeth. If I was lucky enough to have seen a photo from their youth, why had their teeth changed so much? Is that what happened to adults? Why did I notice “my-parents-age” adults with seemingly normal teeth, and then old people, older than The Adults, with perfectly aligned pearly whites, all the same size and without blemish? These thoughts developed into a reasonably solid belief inside my young, impressionable and ever-expanding brain…that all old people had nice teeth.

The realisation did too, undertake the process of change. It wasn’t till much later that I learned about the existence of dentures. From that point, the light bulb flickered on and the door to curiosity was closed. No longer did I need to endlessly wonder why this phenomenon remained a “thing” for those in the later stages of life. My marvelling mind ceased its justifying and reasoning, and the transient question that I’d never actually asked was answered.

This piece was published in Bella Rae in the second half of 2019.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

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