At Christmastime, I am reminded of many happy childhood traditions and memories. Some of my favorite memories involve snuggling up to watch Miracle on 34th Street, or leaping around the family room in a tutu along with The Nutcracker. (I will gleefully reenact this now, except without the tutu.)
When I was growing up, we had a record (kids, ask your parents about those) of Alvin and the Chipmunks singing various Christmas songs. In one of the songs, Theodore sings about wanting his two front teeth for Christmas, so he can wish a Merry Christmas without lisping, and so he can whistle again.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the song, which was written in 1944, was just a silly song meant to be sung by kids who were at the age where they lost their two front teeth and were waiting for the new ones to come in. For me, the song touched a nerve because I was very sensitive about my appearance and especially about my teeth.
Unlike many kids with ectodermal dysplasia, I actually did have nearly all my teeth. They were small and misshapen, and due to my cleft lip and palate, my two front teeth were angled backward and hidden behind my lip, even when I smiled. Many times kids would ask me why I didn’t have any teeth. I would always pull my lips back with my fingers to show that I did have teeth in there.
The song was touching to me because I really would have liked to have better teeth, though I never would have thought to ask for them for Christmas. In some ways the song was annoying to me, because I could whistle just fine with my lips only, and, thanks to all my speech therapy, I could speak without a lisp too. How dare they insinuate that missing teeth was a handicap.
Christmas wasn’t so much about getting stuff (though that was certainly exciting too), but about being together with family and enjoying each other’s company. Other favorite holiday memories include helping my mom make Christmas cookies, checking the closets and underneath beds for hidden presents, and piling into the car on Christmas Eve to drive around looking at all the lights. Aside from the occasional rendition of that song, I did not spend my days worrying too much about my teeth.
After many years of surgery, palate expanders, braces, fillings, crowns, implants, and bridgework, I finally got my “two front teeth” at the age of 16. My wish had finally come true and I couldn’t stop smiling. Having a presentable set of teeth did wonders for my confidence and self esteem.
This Christmas, I hope you’ll take some time to remember your NFED friends, especially the many kids who are undergoing various forms of dental work. We may not be able to give each child teeth for Christmas, but we can share the love and the magic of Christmas by sending a card or making a phone call. If you shop on Amazon (at any time of year, not just Christmas), make sure to designate the NFED as your charity of choice. If you have even more to give, visit the NFED website and click Donate Now.
May your Christmas be merry and bright!Share Your Story