The memory is isolated from context, age or other circumstances. The best I can do is narrow it down to a period between the ages of 9 and 15 because I moved into this particular house when I was about to turn 9 and moved out on my 15th birthday, but I digress.
I had just noticed a rather large black spot between my two front teeth. I had tried to remove it only to find that it was what was left of the teeth in that spot. I had not paid a lot of attention to my teeth. Brushing your teeth does not become a habit when you don’t have a tooth brush.
The first time that I felt the absence of a tooth brush in my life was at a camp. My mother often sent us to camps and Sunday schools and evening activities. It did not matter if we wanted to go, she did not want us around. There was a bus that would pick us up on Sunday morning and take us to Sunday school and bring us home and she was delighted to have Sunday morning “off” each week. Long story short, I spent a lot of time places other than at home.
At this particular camp, they had a speaker one day talking about dental hygiene. The highlight of the presentation was that he had brought these little red pills. He explained that we were all to go and brush our teeth and then we would chew these pills and it would turn all of the plaque on our teeth red. This thrilled my friends and they were all going to prove how clean they got their teeth.
We were sent to our cabins to grab our tooth brushes. We were then supposed to brush our teeth and return. At that point, our success would be judged by the red tablet. I had not brought a toothbrush. I did not own a tooth brush. Instead of going back to the cabin, I took off into the trees next to the camp. I was hopeful that no one would notice that I was missing. I walked along a creek until I got tired and then I went back in time for dinner. No one seemed to be the wiser.
So, now I was examining another casualty of my upbringing in the mirror in the washroom. I had no idea what to do about it. I tried shoving toilet paper into the hole so that it would be whitish instead of black, but it was still obvious. I decided to just be careful when I smiled so that no one could tell.