teeth

In a world where we have all become professionals at photography, carrying our cameras with us all the time, because they are built into our phone, the selfie picture has become the norm in society. We use every version of facial expression from a smile, to a pout, to a look of shock, to a look of anger…real or faked. We use no smile, a toothy grin, or a soft closed-mouth smile, or we might even pucker up, or stick out our tongue. The idea of the unusual or even ridiculous smile is as commonplace as is picture taking itself.

It wasn’t always so, however. When we look at pictures from the early days of photography, the people almost always appear straight-faced, and almost angry. Many people theorized that they didn’t smile because they had bad teeth. It was all too common prior to the days of modern dentistry. As it turns that wasn’t the case, since there were plenty of individuals who had fabulous teeth, yet still kept their mouths shut during pictures. Not to mention, humans can smile without showing their teeth. Another theory was that that because the cameras of old took time to set up and had a long exposure period, anywhere from five minutes to more than 30. It was impractical to hold a smile so long. While that idea does make sense, it doesn’t explain why subjects were rarely depicted smiling in old paintings or why people didn’t start showing their pearly whites in the 1840s when exposure times for photos were under a minute. While these issues might have prevented some from smiling, the major reason for the serious looks was because most people thought smiling made them look ridiculous. Ultimately, the real reason folks didn’t smile was because they thought it made them look stupid. Many people don’t think they have a great smile. They think their smile makes them look goofy, and they didn’t want that to be how they were remembered. Mark Twain summed it up best when he said, “A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.”

These days, that thought is ridiculous. People smiled and laughed in those days, so how could it make them look ridiculous? I find it funny that in different eras, different things are cool or not cool, or even ridiculous. It would seem that each generation has their own uniqueness, and often the prior generation things they are crazy…as do the future generations. According to Nicholas Jeeves, who wrote an extensive article on the topic, by the 17th century “it was a well-established fact that the only people who smiled broadly, in life and in art, were the poor, the lewd, the drunk, the innocent, and the entertainment.” These days, we smile in photos to show happiness or warmth, but back then it was viewed as the equivalent of duckface…a look no self-respecting Victorian would want recorded. As photography advanced and became more common, folks didn’t have to choose a single expression to serve as their memorial for the ages, which opened them up to showing a range of expressions in photos. Still, we can only imagine what the people of the past would think of the hundreds of thousands of pics that are now taken every minute, complete with our foolish smirks, photobombs, and even goofy filtered selfies.

Wyoming has just two escalators, and they are both located in Casper. One is at Hilltop National Bank, and the other is at First Interstate Bank, in the historic part of Casper, the downtown district. My connection is to the escalator at First Interstate Bank, which was First National Bank then. The building that the bank occupies is located at 104 South Wolcott Street. Construction began in in 1956, the year I was born. According to a write up on nps.gov, “That building opened in June 1958. A pamphlet published by the First National Bank of Casper around 1959 stated: “The dream of the directors began to take shape in 1953, when Architect Robert Wehrli presented preliminary plans for the bank and tower building that was to rise at First and Wolcott…” At the time of its completion it was the tallest building in the state and featured the state’s first escalator. Drive-through windows and two levels of underground parking were introduced in the early 1960s.”

So, I’m sure you are wondering what that information and that building could possibly have to do with me. Well, with the pamphlet came a public invitation to tour the new bank at their open house. My mother, Collene Spencer decided to go and take her three daughters with her, my older sister, Cheryl, who was 5 then; my younger sister, Caryl, who was a baby; and her 3 year old daughter…me. The open house was very cool, and there were a lot of people there. We toured every floor, and found it all to be interesting and sparkling with newness. Of course, the highlight of the whole bank was the escalator. It was the first one in the state and everyone wanted to see it, and have a ride…and we were no different.

As we prepared to leave, my mom assisted me into the escalator, and then turned for my sister, Cheryl, who had stepped aside to look at something. By the time Mom got Cheryl on the escalator, I was a couple of people ahead of them. It had only taken a couple of seconds really. Nevertheless, my place in historic downtown Casper was sealed. As I approached the bottom, the older woman in front of me wasn’t sure just how to get off. In her momentary panic, she started backstepping. At 3 years of age, I had no idea how to do that, and so when my feet hit hers, it pushed her off of the escalator, and I fell. My screams could be heard all over the bank. My frilly dress became entangled in the sharp teeth of the escalator’s steps as they cut my elbow and chin. With that incident, while few people ever knew about it, and you would not read about it in any historical accounts, I became the first person injured on the first escalator in Wyoming. The bank president came running over, promising to pay for medical bills and a new dress, while begging my mother not to sue the bank. Of course, back then things were different, and a lawsuit was the last thing on my mother’s mind. For me, while I was only 3, the picture of that woman backstepping on the escalator steps has always remained clear and vivid in my memory files, and the scars on chin and elbow remain too. While I can use escalators, I still get a pain in the pit of my stomach every time I get on or off.

Toothless GirlWhen we knew Audrianna Masterson was due around July 7, 2007, we never expected that she would manage to arrive on that special day of that year. Audrianna is the youngest daughter of my nephew Rob Masterson and his wife, Dustie, and she is my sister, Cheryl’s granddaughter. We were so surprised when little Audrianna…Anna, as she has been nicknamed…arrived on that very special date…07-07-07. Audrianna was a quiet, soft hearted little girl, and has remained so for all of her life…to this point, anyway. She is very soft spoken, especially around those she doesn’t know well. I think that a lot of time, Anna is the type of person who is listening and thinking things through, before she opens up to a certain person or situation. Don’t get the wrong idea about little Anna though, because she has quite the sense of humor, and loves to joke and goof off with her siblings. She has an amazing smile and a great laugh. She brings a sparkle to any The Sister Thingsituation, when she laughs.

Being the youngest of four children in the family, Audrianna has a lot of people to look to for leadership, moral support, and of course, any mischief. She loves spending sister time with her sister, Raelynn, doing all the girly things that sisters do, but she also loves all the rough and tumble play that her brother, Matthew likes to do. I think there is a little bit of girly, and a little bit of tomboy in Miss Anna. That may or may not last, but I can see her as always being the kind of girl who can keep up with the boys, but still clean up into a really pretty girl, who will take their breath away. Audrianna has these soft pretty eyes, that the guys could lose themselves in quite easily, and she has a soft heart to match, but I still think she won’t let herself be pushed around either. These days find Anna looking a little toothless, but it wasn’t due to fights. She lost them the same way most of us do, and then waited for the tooth fairy, of course. I’m sure her real plan in this first picture was to show everyone that they were missing, because that is always a cool thing to do. It makes those kids feel so Jumping Jacksgrown up, because they have watched their siblings lose teeth before them. It makes them feel like they are getting big like their brother or sister…and they are, whether we like it or not.

This particular birthday is a special one for Audrianna, because it is her Golden Birthday. That is when you are the same age as the date you were born on. Since Anna was born on July 7, and is 7 years old this year, she definitely qualifies. For her, I think this one is even more special, because it is exactly 7 years after her 07-07-07 birthday. How cool is that? So, today is Anna’s 7th birthday. Happy Golden Birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Mike StevensI’m sure many people can recall a friend or two who had those silver teeth in grade school. Of course, they were really a spacer to keep the teeth from getting crooked when they were knocked out long before they should have been, and the permanent teeth were still years away. They were also used when the permanent teeth were somehow knocked out, and rather than have a big gap, the dentist replaced the missing tooth with the silver version. This was before they came up with implants for teeth, and of course, these days no one has silver teeth any more. Dentists have learned so much now, and they can even put the original teeth back in and they do just fine. Nevertheless, when my brother-in-law, Mike Stevens was a young boy, he was riding his bicycle, when the front wheel of his bike came off. Losing the front wheel of your bicycle does make it impossible to do much except have a wreck. When he fell, he knocked out his two front teeth. The dentist replaced them with those old silver teeth, and he was called “Chipper” for years. In the nearly thirty years since my sister, Alena and Mike have been married, I never knew that he ever had silver teeth. At some point, the dentist must have fixed them for him, so I never knew he was called “Chipper”…until a little birdie told me about it.

Mike has had a couple of little…situations where he ended up on the ground in an unexpected way. As a teenager, he was in his room sleeping, when the house next door to them was blown sky high in a gas explosion. A sleeping Mike found himself thrown literally against the wall. Now, if that isn’t a rude awakening, I don’t know what is. I mean, with the bicycle, at least he knew he was about to take a face plant into the pavement, but when you are sound asleep, and suddenly you are flying across the room…well, all you could possibly think is…”What in the world is going on??” I don’t believe Mike was hurt badly in that explosion, but I would have to imagine that he ached for a few days…along with that very thankful feeling you would have that you are still alive. I remember that explosion. It was only a few blocks from my parents house. There was literally nothing left of that house, but I’m very thankful Michael Stevensthat my brother-in-law, Mike and his family were not hurt.

When you think about all the times a person that you love could have been seriously hurt, or even killed, you find yourself very thankful that God’s angels were standing guard over their lives…whether they knew it or not. Mike has been a wonderful asset to our family, and I simply can’t imagine our family without him. He is always willing to help when he is needed, and he has some very innovative ideas. His sense of humor is one that has made all of us smile or better yet, have a great chuckle over for years. Today is Mike’s birthday. Happy birthday Mike!! Our family is very blessed to have you in it. Have a great day!! We love you!!

My mom’s younger brother, Uncle Wayne has always been such a funny man. He loves to make the kids laugh. For as long as I can remember, Uncle Wayne had dentures, and he loved popping them in and out of his mouth when the kids were around. He could pop them part way out of his mouth and make them act like they were going to bite you…all with no hands. The first time we saw it, we screamed with delight, and then we begged him to do it again. When we were little enough not to understand what dentures were, we would try to pop our own teeth out too, a comical site for sure, as we pushed our lower jaw out , or pushed on our teeth with our tongue. Uncle Wayne’s eyes just danced  and beamed with delight as he watched us try, then he would show us how “easy” it was, if we just knew how. Every time we saw him we asked again and again, to pop out his teeth. If Uncle Wayne got tired of that, he never showed it. He would simply grin and pop out those teeth, and then sit back with a smile on his face and wait…for a second or two…until the kids started begging him to do it again.

Uncle Wayne’s funny side developed early in his life. He was the younger of my mom’s two brothers, and one of two boys in a family of nine children. You could look at that situation in a couple of ways. You could call him and his brother…out numbered, and you would be right. Or, you could say that the boys had lots of potential victims…for all of the antics boys are bound by their very nature to engage in. Since my mom was born right in between those two boys, and they were often her playmates, and she was either a prime victim or a partner in crime…depending on how she or they felt at the time. To be sure, my mom and her two brothers got into plenty of mischief together. What one didn’t come up with one of the others would, and when you put those three heads together…oh boy, look out!!

Today is my Uncle Wayne’s 75th birthday…which is a landmark by any standards. His life has been one filled with laughter, much of which was his own making…the best kind of life. Happy birthday Uncle Wayne!!  Have a wonderful day!!  We love you very much!!

It is a dilemma that every mother of a baby girl has had at one time or another. That statement that was intended as sweet, that came out as insulting…at least to the mom. You know the one, “Oh, he is just adorable and so handsome!” Your first thought is, “Really, you think my little girl looks like a boy…Seriously!! I mean she is wearing pink, for Pete’s sake!!” Deep down you know that it is very hard to tell a girl baby from a boy baby, but you secretly hoped your little princess would be the exception to the rule…you know, the one that was so beautiful, even as an infant that it was obvious that she was a girl. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and you try to control your tongue as you stand there seething for the third time this shopping trip. You grit your teeth, and say,”She’s a girl!” Of course, the person in front of you, who now knows very well that they have insulted you and your little princess, meant nothing by it, and really wishes they could become invisible…or better yet that they had kept their comment generic, so they would not find themselves in the position they now find themselves in, but it is too late. They apologize and quickly move away, but you are left with the knowledge that you have to do something to protect your darling little daughter from such abusive remarks in the future.

So, since you are already in the store, you set out to solve this problem, once and for all. Obviously, pink isn’t the answer, so what is next. I mean, she doesn’t have enough hair for ribbons or bows yet. Well, when my daughters were babies, there were no baby headbands, but I’m sure many of you are starting to see where the idea for a baby headband came from. My mother’s generation tried many things to girlify their daughters. Even dresses weren’t totally helpful, because many people back when my parents were little put both boys and girls in a long baby gown. And even when my girls were babies, there was the pajama sack…a night gown that had the bottom sewed up to keep their little feet inside and warm.

My mother told me to tape a bow to their heads, or use corn syrup to make it stick. I never really liked the mess that made, so I determined to find another way. I suppose many people would think I was trying to go back to the Old West, but I never really thought of it that way when put their little bonnets on my girls heads. All I knew is that they looked so cute, and no one would think they were boys again!

Loosing the baby teeth. It is a rite of passage. The move from being a baby to being a big kid. Most kids lose a couple of teeth at a time, and maybe 4,  Too many teeth lost at the same time can make eating somewhat difficult. I remember teasing my girls, and then the grandkids about having to eat baby food, since they lost their teeth. They would always roll their eyes, and say “Mommmmm!!” or “Grandmaaaa!!” I’d just laugh. They always knew I was teasing, but they liked the teasing just the same. It brought attention to the gaping hole in their mouths, and made them feel special.

Most of the time these little toothless moments caused very few problems, but in 2005, when Josh was 7, losing teeth took on a little bit different direction…to say the very least. Josh lost a couple of teeth, and then two more before those could come back in, and then, two more!! He had so many teeth missing, that it truly became difficult to eat anything besides soft foods. I suppose it was a good thing that Josh liked foods like macaroni and cheese, and hot dogs. Otherwise, he might have starved, and since he has always been a slender kid, it wouldn’t have taken too long. My teasing about baby food, seemed to have come true. Not that it would have been a bad thing either, since baby food comes is some pretty good dessert flavors, anyway.

Nevertheless, Josh does look a little bit concerned in this picture, so I have to wonder what he is worried about. If I know Josh, it has to do with some food he might not be able to eat, but that could be pretty much anything from granola bars to apples. More likely he was just making a face. That’s how Josh is. He can make some of the funniest faces, and have some of the goofiest smiles, but truly, no smile can really top this one. There are so many teeth missing…that this smile is practically gums only.

Of course, at 7 years old, there is one more possible reason for Josh’s face.He may have been wondering if somehow he was different than most kids. He might have thought that this rite of passage had gone a little wrong somehow…like would his teeth ever come back…would he be able to eat real food again??? For Josh, that could be a big concern, because he really likes to eat. And I don’t think baby food is exactly what he had in mind. Thankfully, this rite of passage soon passed, and Josh has his new teeth…Whew!!!

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