I like to hear other people's orthodonture war stories. Heaven knows there's plenty of them floating around out there, and whenever roundtable discussions break out about braces, headgears, and retainers, I always like to listen in and participate, hoping that maybe someone else will talk about having to wear a FUNCTIONAL REGULATOR. That's the scientific term for the device I had to wear for about three years to correct an overbite, starting when I was in the third grade. It's also known as the Frankel Appliance, named after its inventor (one Rolf Frankel), but my orthodontist referred to it as an FR.
When my brother Stephen and I were first informed that we were going to see an orthodontist to see about having our overbites fixed, I don't remember even being mildly worried about what I was going to wind up with. I only remember being maybe a little excited about something new and different winging its way into my little third-grader life. Then came the first visit to our orthodontist, Dr. Hershon- a man who acted like he didn't like children very much- and the unpleasantness started. Sitting in the backseat of the station wagon on the long drives to his office through Nowheresville, getting impressions done and sitting in a big chair, gagging on what felt like a mouthful of hardening cement and trying not to drown in my own drool, more sitting in another big chair while Dr. Hershon tried to see if he could fit both of his hairy, catcher's mitt sized hands in my mouth at the same time- it was all a drag, but I was a trooper and behaved well. Meanwhile my brother Stephen, 3 years older than me, was getting braces installed and received a headgear to correct his overbite and other problems, whereas I was younger and had a more malleable mouth, and thus wound up with the FR. Then I got handed my sentence: three years or more wearing this...THING... that looked like 3 or 4 retainers balled up into one great big hunk of metal and pink plastic:
It was huge. I wasn't prepared for the way it filled my whole mouth up with big hunks of plastic and little wires everywhere. It held my jaws together and kept my tongue compressed and little pools of spit were constantly forming in the nooks and crannies around my teeth, and this excess spit would have to be sucked back into my throat occasionally with a great "CCcchhhhhhccchh!" I couldn't talk and wear it at the same time. If I did, I sounded like a severely retarded person doing a Boris Karloff impersonation. "Miss Montgomery gave us a math test today" would sound like "ccchhhhhMMmhhsssMMnngoohhmmreeghaaavchhhhsssssaMmmahhchessssstodaaaacchcchchchhh." So, say, if I was in school and my teacher asked me a question, before I answered I had to suck in some spit pools real quick, pull the FR from my mouth, and attempt to sever the long string(s) of drool which usually stretched from my lip to the wires. Nice. I still have two little dents on the insides of my cheeks from those little metal loops on the sides. I also remember the way the FR smelled. It seemed that no matter how much I brushed it and cleaned it, it smelled odd. Not quite a bad odor, but just "off" enough to be mildly but constantly unpleasant and disconcerting.
I was told to start wearing it for a half hour a day, then an hour a day, and so on. At first, I tried to be OK with it, "A half hour? OK, I'll wear it while I watch The Munsters and tomorrow I'll wear it while I watch The Munsters and Bewitched!" No problem. I tried to be a big girl about it. Then came the first time I had to go to bed while wearing it. You see, even though I was in the third grade, I still hadn't completely let go of my ragged old security blanket, which lived in my pajama drawer during the day and in my bed with me at night. That blanket had a rich and glorious history which I'll talk about some other time, but at bedtime, it was part of my routine to put on my jammies, get out my blanket, climb up into bed under the covers, and snuggle down with the blanket held up to my face....with my right thumb in my mouth. Yep, a thumbsucker. Only at night, but still- I wasn't supposed to be doing that and I knew it, but I just couldn't fall asleep without my blanket and my thumb. And I was so embarrassed when my mom told the orthodontist and other grownups about my aberrant behavior. So I vowed to myself that whatever came of this orthodonture business, NO ONE could take my thumb away from me.
Then came that first night with the FR. I climbed into bed with my blanket and tried to fall asleep as usual, but...I couldn't get my thumb in my mouth. There just wasn't any room! I tried for about 15 minutes to find a loophole somewhere in that bird's nest of arbitrary wires, but it was just no good. I held my security blanket up to my face, still enjoying its cozy feel and fuzzy, blanket-y smell, but it wasn't the same. "I'll try again tomorrow night," I thought, trying to pretend that they hadn't broken me, but I knew it was over.
Eventually I got used to the goddamn thing, the way you would get used to having a bad back, I suppose. Of course I wore it dutifully until my brother and I both got released from our orthodontic troubles at the same time, in 1984 I think. We both went out into the driveway with my dad's sledgehammer and absolutely destroyed my FR, his retainer, and his headgear. Actually, Stephen stalked off into the woods with the headgear and viciously twisted it around a tree branch. My dad frowned on this cathartic behavior towards these expensive appliances, but my mom was tickled. She had wanted our teeth to be fixed, but at the same time she intensely disliked our orthodontist and knew that the appliances were a shameful, embarrassing ordeal. In fact, my mom told me recently that when Dr. Hershon tried to give us even more othodontic stuff to deal with after the braces came off and the FR had done its work and our teeth were fine, she refused. He started to insist, but then my mom told him off, saying she'd had enough of his crabby and insufferable demeanor and that her kids were sick of him, too. He said "Well, I don't know about Stephen, but I know that Amy's been fine with me." "AMY IS SO AGREEABLE, SHE WOULD BE FINE WITH THE MARQUIS DE SADE!!!" she retorted, and would hear no more of it.
I may have been agreeable, but I was and am also stubborn and sentimental, for I never could bear to throw away the security blanket. I haven't looked at it in years and years, but it still lives in an undisclosed location in my house. No grownup's gonna make me get rid of my blanket if I don't want to.
Who doesn't like soda? Or "pop", if you're from the North, or "Coke" if you're from certain hardcore Southern areas. Of course, there is the diplomatic compromise term "soda-pop" ("sody-pop", if you happen to be Foghorn Leghorn), but I've always said soda. I've always been very fond of any kind of fizzy drink from an early age. Ahhhh, the wonderful nose-tickling bubbles joyfully leaping about in a freshly poured glass of root beer, orange soda, grape soda, Dr. Pepper, Coca ColaTM, Sprite, 7-Up, beer, or champagne- it's all a delight to the senses. Strangely, though, I don't drink soda nearly as often as my fondness for it demands (beer and champagne are another story entirely). This is probably a good thing, since I don't really need a lot of extra calories from all the sugar and I cannot abide the taste of any diet soda. No sir.
My earliest memories of soda involve those long glass bottles of the late 1970's, which my brother and I would retrieve from large glass-topped refrigerated coolers in various old gas stations around Williamsburg County, SC. The kind of station that's really just a couple of pumps in front of a shack that has an old illuminated plastic Pepsi-Cola sign sticking out over the door. My drink of choice then was Patio, either orange or grape. Grover drinks Patio, why shouldn't you?
Patio is long gone, of course. But a little later, Santa Claus brought us a toy 7-Up dispenser! In retrospect, it was a clunky plastic thing that looked a little like one of the busted up old junky droids that Luke and Uncle Owen didn't buy, but at the time I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. It was hilarious! It was very 1970's, complete with that unbelievable 7-Up slogan: "7-Up: The Uncola". I think that was also when Sprite commercials kept talking about how Sprite had the flavor of Limon, pronounced 'lymon'. Geddit? Half lime, half lemon? Huh? Anyway, to start dispensing your own 7-up into little cups just like the big daddy grownup soda fountains, you had to get one of those great big unwieldy glass King-Size bottle of 7-Up and lay it on its side juuuuusst right, wrenching off the cap at juuuusst the right moment. Then you put the big cover back on, put your cup in place under the little spigot, press a button and DAMN! I have 7-Up!!! An example can be seen here, until somebody shells out 65 bucks for it.
Cans at the time had those little pull tabs you pulled off the can, making a little candy corn-shaped hole in the top. Cans supplanted the glass soda bottles, but not at our house from about 1984 to 1986/7! Elaborate kitchen gadgets have always appealed to my dad, who actually liked his Salad Shooter. He always made a big pan of fried shredded potatoes with it and would boom the slogan out as he pulled it out of the cabinet: "Salad ShootERRRRR!!" Naturally, the Soda Stream was a direct hit. This was a machine that carbonated drinks for you. It came with a bunch of glass soda bottles and caps, flavoring syrup pumps, and a CO2 canister. You filled a bottle with water and a couple shots of syrup, put it in the machine, pulled down the lever, and SHOOOMP went the CO2. You now have a bottle of root beer, or whatever. We adored it and used it all the time, until the machine, the extra canisters, the extra bottles, then all the flavoring syrups were discontinued. Feh. I never knew anybody else that had a Soda Stream, but when I went looking around for images to use just now, I found out that it was much more popular in Great Britain for some reason. I couldn't find any visual evidence of the model we had except for this Ebay listing, and the sellers are snottily protecting their images. Who do they think they are? The rightful owners?
I always like to check out the weird, little-known regional soda varieties like SunDrop and Frostie, or exotic soda brands of other lands, like Goombay Punch:
Before I go, I wanted to let you know that this Christmas, 7-Up advises you to settle for nothing less than a 24-foot Chrismas tree and some red-shoed sap to hang gigantic gold swags of tinsel on it for you. While he's working his ass off, drink 7-Up and telephone a friend.