I have my mom’s smile. It’s one of the best gifts she ever gave me. It’s this big toothy smile that makes two big parenthesis framing it on either side of our mouth. It’s a smile that makes our high cheeks push up, our eyes get squinty, and smile wrinkles fan out around our bottom eye lids. It’s a smile that says everything you need to know about how we are feeling.
My mom got her perfect smile naturally. Straight teeth, upper and lower. I got thousands of dollars sunk into my grille to straighten and even it out. My mom was always big on teeth. She supervised many of my teeth brushing sessions growing up. And if you tried to cheat on brushing your teeth you got a standard lecture from my mom about how you only get one set of teeth and you have to make them last a lifetime. And I guess it worked. I’m pretty obsessive about my teeth.
And now smiling is one of those things we struggle with, because my mom is starting to loose it. That is, when we tell her to smile in pictures, sometimes it happens sometimes it doesn’t. She says, “I am smiling,” even though what you get is a neutral expression. I guess it makes sense knowing what she’s going through. Smiling is probably a very complicated action, requiring lots of muscles to do what they need to do all at the same time. So when that action is voluntary, it’s hard.
And yet, the involuntary smiles still happen. When a song she likes comes on the radio, you’re likely to get a big grin. Sometimes when she looks across the room and sees my brother or me sitting in a chair she smiles a big smile. She doesn’t will it. It’s that involuntary smile that she passed on to me that just happens because you can’t keep all that happiness inside. It’s my mom’s smile that happens because it can’t do anything but burst out all over her face. And she gave that smile to me. And after she can’t do it any more, I’ll still smile her smile, and see her happiness in mine.