“We’re pretty sure she’ll need braces.”

May 24, 2011 | My Jottings

Tell me you don’t have a school picture like this in your past.

A photo with teeth poking through all over the place and not knowing where to finally settle, with hair done by your mother who probably used Aqua Net hair spray, and with freckles and innocence all over your face.

When I was ten years old and in the fifth grade, my parents began furrowing their brows whenever I smiled at them. At that age I hardly looked in the mirror, so I had no idea that my teeth were looking so, er, outstanding. But I guess parents can see things that ten year olds cannot. Even one of my older brothers, Steve, had noticed. But he wasn’t furrowing, he was guffawing. And he called me Bucky Beaver a lot. He also called me Porky Pig, but I was twig-thin back then so all these years later I’ve finally figured out that he was just plain mean.

This is my fifth grade school photo, which just seems wrong on so many levels. 🙂

First of all, the hair. I shared here about how my mother had an intense aversion to a thing about long, stringy hair, and did not like bangs at all. I guess the do she gave me (I slept in hard, plastic rollers secured with hair pins) reflected what she thought was the best look for little girls in 1967.

Second, the lavender bow. I had a whole drawerful of velvet bows and plastic headbands, and this one was obviously picked because I was wearing my purple ribbed turtleneck sweater.

What you can’t see is the matching purple and white plaid wool skirt with the thick purple belt. And the purple fishnet stockings. And the black Mary Jane shoes. (The spots you see on the sweater are on the picture itself — there is no way my mother would have let me out the door on picture day with spots on my clothes!)

Thirdly, the old lady pin. I’m pretty sure the pin was my mom’s idea too. I don’t remember balking at wearing it, because I was ten years old and didn’t care about things like purple flower pins to go on purple sweaters. What I cared about was 1) swimming, 2) reading books, 3) tether ball, and 4) riding bikes with my friend Denel.

Oh, and I wanted my parents to be happy and to love each other all the time and forever.

Fourth, my teeth. My permanent teeth had begun their eruptions two years before, and I think everyone held their breath to see if my bite was going to be a steep slope or go all the way to a cantilever. This photo doesn’t quite show just how much of an overbite I had.

My dentist, Dr. Kent Payne, recommended a good orthodontist. After my first appointment with him, Dr. Teal, a master of understatement, came out to the waiting room to gravely tell my mother “Well, we’re pretty sure she’ll need braces.”

I had to wait one more year until more permanent teeth came down into place, and then I was fitted for headgear, which looked very much like this photo. The headgear was designed to move my upper molars back to make room for the correction that was to eventually be done on my front teeth. I wore the headgear at night while I slept and on weekends. I can remember many hours of curled up reading with my headgear on.

After a few months of the headgear, I had braces put on my front teeth. I wore those braces for less than a year because my teeth moved quickly. I was called Metal Mouth and worse, but I don’t ever remember minding that moniker. I never minded the Metal Mouth moniker. I like alliteration so just spontaneously decided to say the quadruple M-phrase over again for your enjoyment.

Then I was fitted for a retainer, and I was to wear that round the clock for two years. It was a pink plastic mold that in hindsight looked like a crustacean of some sort, that was fitted to the roof of my mouth and had a wire in front of my teeth to keep them in place after all the realigning that had been done. My friend Denel had braces and eventually a retainer too, and we liked to have our pictures taken in photo booths — some of our most memorable were when we smiled at the camera with our retainers sticking out.

I’ve always been thankful that I had braces when I was young, and I told my parents so. My brother stopped calling me Bucky Beaver, and I was finally able to easily close my mouth after years of several front teeth getting in the way.

Did you have braces? What were your experiences with them?

And if any of you have an elementary school picture of yourself, scan it and email it to me, and I’ll put it here on the blog. It’s good to laugh together. Anyone who sends me a photo wins something too. 🙂

UPDATE — May 26 — My sweet friend Shari, whom I met in Junior High and have some wonderful memories with, sent this photo of me today. It would have been around eighth grade, I believe.

You can actually see the retainer I wrote about above. So exciting, I know.

And here’s a darling photo of Shari. Shari is a wife, mother of two beautiful grown children, a gifted, published artist, and follower of Christ. She and I used to swim together a lot when we were in Junior High School, and I’m so thankful to still be in touch with her forty years after this photo was taken.


  1. Helen in Switzerland says:

    Mothers were funny in those days weren’t they? My mother always had me dressed like a miniature middle aged woman. In the liberated sixties she had no idea that there was another way – I still think she hasn’t quite got it. In my late 40s I now dress younger and more fashionably than I did in my late teens and twenties, when I really did walk around with a twinset, tweed skirt and pearls – although maybe that wasn’t so strange then as we were all emulating the young Princess Diana. I still think I missed out on being young in some ways. If only I had realized then and taken advantage of the fact that I had great legs (which never saw the light of day!!). It was only when they didn’t look so great anymore that I realized how nice they had been!!! It’s funny looking back isn’t it!

  2. Just Julie says:

    I enjoyed what you wrote, Helen! Thank you. I think we can all look back on our childhoods and see things we missed out on. At least you’re making up for some of it now! And I’m sure your nice legs have served your running well, and your running served your nice legs well. 😀 Blessings on your week….

  3. Ganeida says:

    Cat’s whiskers! I had a set too! And plates ~ 3 or 4 of those followed by braces for years & years. Now they come in fluro colours with coloured bands but back then they looked like railway tracks.

    I was about 13 when I got mine & out to tea with a newish friend [Brit as it happened & rather proper] & you know how you run your tongue around your teeth? Well I did that & hooked my tongue on the back of my newish braces! Couldn’t unhook. Emergency trip to the orthodontist required. *sigh* I’m such a dork.

  4. Just Julie says:

    Ouch – that must have been painful Ganeida. Never had that happen to me, but I do remember having to be attentive to all the food that would get stuck in them. Blech. 🙂

  5. Shari says:

    Hi Julie!
    I was looking for something today and I came across a photo of you from Traweek days (i.e. “retainer days” for you and me! : )…then later I decided to take a break and treat myself to some reading and I came to your blog. Fun that you were writing about braces!! I scanned the photo and will send it to your email as an attachment 🙂
    Love to you, friend!
    p.s. You’re beautiful smile shines joy…

  6. Just Julie says:

    Shari! I don’t even remember that photo you sent! Were there ones of you that day too? Oh, yes, there’s the retainer. Maybe I’ll add it to the same post. Thank you so much for sending this….I remember our Traweek days very well, and you were in the best memories. Blessings….

  7. Shari says:

    I think this picture of you was from a photo booth that we went to…and it made a strip of three, or four pictures…but don’t know where the other ones are! I had this in a box with school memorabilia and school friends pictures. Do you remember where the photo booth was?
    Maybe at “Zody’s”?

  8. Just Julie says:

    It could have been Zody’s, or it could have been at the Eastland Mall – I remember getting photos done there before. Can’t remember the store, but it was across the way from the old Long’s Drug. ?? I wish there were some of you….

  9. Shari says:

    Would that have been “Lucky’s”? It was a supermarket up there.

  10. Just Julie says:

    I remember a photo booth (Denel and I used to have our pictures done too) in a store across from Thom McAn shoes. It was when Long’s was still in the main mall area – not over by Lucky’s as you mentioned. Oh well – wherever we had it done, I’ve enjoyed thinking back, Shari. TY.

  11. Shari says:

    Fun memories…was there another store on the corner of the Eastland Mall called “Newberry’s”?

  12. Just Julie says:

    That sounds familiar but I don’t remember that one – maybe that was the one with the photo booth in it! 🙂

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