64: Bucky Beaver

64: Bucky Beaver

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

Bucky Beaver

Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring — quite often the hard way.

~Pamela Dugdale

If you were to look back at the pictures of my early years, you would be left with the impression that I was a happy child. Not that I wasn’t, it’s just that the evidence was, shall we say, obvious. The manifestation of my happiness was my large smile. You couldn’t miss it. Unfortunately, you couldn’t miss the extra large set of bucked teeth that went along with it.

It didn’t help that one of the many nicknames my father gave me was Bucky Beaver. Nicknames used by my parents were always considered terms of endearment. To Dad, and to me, Bucky Beaver was an expression of love straight from the heart. Who cared that my teeth were the most prominent part of my profile? They were mine, and because my dad loved me, he also loved my teeth.

Unfortunately, my younger brother, John, didn’t work under the same rules. John was a smart and articulate boy, with an uncanny ability to turn goodness into evildoing. And so it was with Bucky Beaver. What was once an expression of my father’s fondness, my brother used to torture me.

“Hey, Bucky Beaver!” John would sneer as he rocketed past me and my friends on his bike. Occasionally, when we were old enough to walk to the corner ice cream store, which was where all the cool kids hung out, I would wait for my order at the walk-up window. Then I’d hear, “Order for Bucky Beaver!” and see my brother snickering off in the corner. My appetite gone, I would return home, defeated.

It’s not like I could do anything to change the source of his teasing. Not like when he called me Smelly Kelley. To avoid any truth behind that name, all I had to do was routinely bathe. But the teeth — I could brush them all I wanted, but they still stuck out.

Even my mom, who was supposed to be my advocate, crossed the line. When she forwarded our school pictures to my grandparents in Seattle, Mom would call first to give the heads-up.

“I sent the kids’ school pictures to you today,” Mom would say with an almost apologetic tone. “Yes.” she continued. “Kelley? Uh huh... well,” — nervous laugh — “we’re hoping she’ll grow into them.” She wasn’t talking about my feet.

To add to my indignity, when I was eight years old, three-quarters of my front left tooth got in the way of a school building while playing tag, and ended up in the dirt. I remember the shock of it all. Not so much that I had lost part of my tooth. To me, it was just one more in a line of many that had already fallen out, or were on their way. Losing a tooth up to that point had been a cause for celebration. It was a rite of passage, followed by money left under my pillow by the tooth fairy. This time was different. I got an entirely new reaction when I opened the door to my house after school that day.

“Hi Mom!” I yelled, smiling extra wide to show off my new look.

“Oh my God!” Mom shrieked. Her jaw dropped, and she began to slowly weave back and forth as she stood, pale faced, staring down at me.

“What? It’th jutht my tooth!” I lisped. It was then that I learned the significance of permanent teeth.

The next thing I remember I was reclining in the dentist chair with my mom and Dr. Roberts hovering over me. The good dentist announced there was no saving the tooth, particularly since what could have been saved was still lying somewhere in the dirt on the school playground.

Regardless, a crown was the way to go. A shiny silver half-crown covering what remained of my left center bucked tooth. A look that was memorialized in my next set of school pictures.

Things didn’t improve when I graduated to a full-sized enamel colored crown. It didn’t change the fact that my teeth were still... prominent. Which was all the permission my brother needed to continue on his quest to embarrass me.

My protests about my brother’s relentless name calling, and ultimately about my teeth, fell on deaf ears until the summer before sixth grade. That’s when my parents finally acknowledged my “condition” was not going to improve on its own. That’s when the idea of braces was first introduced.

For weeks, my parents and I considered the evidence. There would be pain involved, and considerable expense. I would also have to sacrifice eating gum, gooey candy, and popcorn. On the other hand, straightening my teeth would severely weaken my brother’s arsenal. How I welcomed that opportunity!

Finally, the big day arrived. Once again I found myself reclining in a chair, only this time I was in my new orthodontist’s office. Dr. Ellis worked quickly to weld gleaming silver onto my smile. Pounding, pulling, gluing, twisting, the experience was unsettling. But I knew it would be worth it to finally be able to avoid my brother’s persistent taunting.

Once I got home, I inspected Dr. Ellis’ work more closely. I inched close to the large mirror hanging in the hallway and opened my mouth wide. Oh! I stepped back a bit, blinking, then began to stare. Each one of my teeth was individually wrapped in silver. A single horseshoe-shaped wire ran along each tooth on the upper jaw, and another on the lower jaw, to help rein in my wayward teeth.

At that moment my brother came bustling around the corner. He stopped abruptly, surprised to see me there. Silently, John eyed my transformation. He knew the days of Bucky Beaver were officially over. I caught a momentary flicker of defeat in his eyes, which made my insides feel warm and fuzzy.

But then his eyes slowly began to narrow, and the corner of his mouth curled up slightly. Squaring his shoulders, John turned and positioned himself for a quick getaway, as he yelled back over his shoulder, “Hey Brace Face!”

~Kelley Stimpel Martinez

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