The Other Cheers

I do not remember my first visit to the dentist, which means I was either too young or I was traumatized and have blocked the memory.
Whichever the case, I have been back every six months since, until death do I part, except of course that wild stint during my young uninsured adult life when I fell off the chair and built up a whole bunch of plaque.
But then one day I became a mother and before I knew it I was sneaking quarters under pillows and throwing away tiny teeth.
And then I became responsible for the giant sized pearly whites that started coming into mouths that clearly did not have room.
It was time for me to get back on that chair and for my boys to start living out their lives cut into six month intervals like the rest of us.
Since my mother happened to be the office manager of a dental clinic in downtown Madison it made it special.
When we walked through the door there was no sitting in the waiting room with the common folk. Instead we hung out in Grandma Jan's private paper filled office where Marques clicked away on her adding machine creating rolls of number nonsense and Rene played with her hole punch, making it look like a snow storm had come through. It was a dream come true. She had everything in there you could possibly ask for, paper clips, scissors, tape, pens and markers.

Sometimes she even took us out for lunch when we were all done.
Then she found a new job managing an office for a pest control service.
I know.
Those were tough years.
We were like royalty tossed out in the streets and it was right when the boys were wearing brightly colored rubber bands in their mouths and Marques was sleeping in head gear, which meant we were spending a lot of time in that God forsaken dental office waiting room where we found ourselves sitting among common folk. And we had never taken a class for that kind of a situation.
So while Rene was in the chair picking out new rubber bands and the receptionist called out, "Euncie Eikel, your cab is waiting," Marques and I burst out laughing.
It was Marques' fault.
He put his giant baby blues in my face and whispered, "Unicycle."
And then a little old lady slowly stood up, walked out the door and climbed into a yellow taxi parked out front, while the others in the stuffy room glared at the losers still trying to stifle their inappropriate giggling.
But with each tweak to their metal mouths, which was every thirty days, we grew up a little bit more and we became more and more refined.
Time marches on because the world keeps on spinning and eventually their teeth were free and beautiful and they were all grown up.
That is the reason that one day I found myself all by myself in that waiting room among the commoners waiting to see a new dentist because my old guy had retired.
And then one day the little downtown office on Regent and Mills moved to a new location outside of the city.
My first appointment at the cathedral was like walking into corporate dental America. I was embarrassed to enter without a brief case that matched my heels.
They had all kinds of fancy new gadgets there. Everything was state of the art. I could watch my molars on a big screen tv, if I wanted to.
Those dental associates were the Star Trekkers of teeth. They even had their own loan department to help you out with your root canals and enamel crowns.
Never has one giant building made a person feel so small.
One cold and unforgiving December morning corporate dental America screwed Millie Noe.
It may have been an accident, but that two hundred dollar around the world x-ray, that came out of my pocket on a day that that two hundred dollars might as well have been a thousand dollars, is what did it.
I set my Christmas cash on the counter, said, "Don't bother," to the receptionist searching for my next cleaning, and walked out the double glass doors for good.
The saying is true.
For every door that closes another one opens.
That is how I found myself back home in a place I had never been.
Or had I?
Teri has not invited me behind her glass window to play with her adding machine, but she does look at my grand baby pictures when I stick them in her face.
And a few years back at our request, my dentist dropped two birthday cards onto my niece's lap while she was in for a cleaning, because Grandma Jan and I had not gotten them into the mail on time.
And then there was that day I called in sick to work, forgetting that I had a seven am cleaning scheduled. When he caught me at home, because I accidentally answered the phone, he said he he was sorry I wasn't feeling well.
And I said, "Oh, no, I'm fine. I'm just playing hooky."
He looked at the calendar on Teri's desk and said, "Do you want to come in later today? There is an opening at three o'clock?"
And I said, "No, that won't work. That will ruin my pajama day."
He just said, "Okay then."
And not so long ago he laughed off my threats about what was going to happen if that crown for my Sweet Sven's front tooth implant did not arrive soon.
Fortunately, I have never choked on my own spit while a hygienist polishes my teeth in this building, which is surprising, because the stories they have are mostly funny ones. Sometimes I don't really want to leave. But when they hand me a toothbrush it is time to go. And I know Teri will send me an invitation to come back in six months.
If that office was a little less about drilling and flossing and more about setting my favorite beer on the bar it would make sense why each time I pull away with my shiny new teeth and head straight to Kwik Trip for a cup of dark Columbian roast, I hear the theme song from Cheers.
You know, the one about everyone knowing your name.
"What's that Louisa?"
Hang on a second, my sister is talking.
My sister says everybody there does know my name. They know everybody's name. This is a small town.
"You call it a small town, Louisa. I call it royalty. And there is no reason to call me an idiot."

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