My mother, bless her heart, could have used an extra bathroom.
With four kids claiming the bathroom upstairs and the downstairs “utility room” overflowing with loads of laundry, she resorted to the kitchen windowsill to hold a small cadre of personal care products.
One particularly unappetizing and cringe-worthy repository was her Chopper Hopper: a bifocaled, befuddled-looking lady designed to keep false teeth soaking. A tablet of Polident started the fizzing action that stripped away nicotine and food stains every night while Mom made sandwiches and set out school outfits.
I’m afraid I can’t say my mother’s original Chopper Hopper made it from the 50s into the 21st century preserved like a family heirloom. I have no idea where it ended up — in the trash, probably. Mom passed away suddenly about 20 years ago. She had very few personal possessions. In fact, she died without a will.
My sister and I quibbled over silverware and sentimental stuff, but her denture dish was certainly not something either one of us hoped to inherit. I held the initial round of garage sales and purging, but my sister was ultimately responsible for emptying and selling the house.
So when another dealer at the antique mall unwrapped one and set it out for sale, before Christmas, I was delighted. In some small way, I imagined Mom laughing uproariously at the look on my face. I sent a picture to my sister, who said, “I want it!”
As I add up the small fortune spent on my root canals, crowns, implants, bleaching treatments, and Invisalign trays, I feel guilty. Is my generation that much vainer? Or have lasers and lower deductibles dictated the never-ending quest for the best and brightest teeth?
That the extent of her cosmetic surgery was limited to a silly ceramic dish, now considered the height of kitsch, amazes me. Every penny my mother got went toward furthering the interests (and incisors) of her kids from fillings to French class.
I know, someday, my hygiene items may become curious and archaic. Will the Waterpik look as silly as those personal desktop fans? Will the little slingshot flossers make Gen Z avert their eyes?
One thing is for sure. Memories, good and bad, connect us to the unique moments we wish we’d savored, to moments we could have been a little kinder or a little more present.
A slightly chipped ceramic dish now resting on my windowsill (my sister can find her own) isn’t going to bring back my mother or rewrite the history of our rocky relationship.
I can “woulda, coulda, shoulda” myself right into a very bad or terrible, self-sabotaging mood that will have me grinding molars all night. My dentist says I’ll need another crown this year, but I think he just needs another ski trip.
I miss my mother and know she’d chuckle at this. But: “Be true to your teeth, or they’ll be false to you.”