When I was in 8th grade (I think… or was it 7th? No, it was indeed 8th) I got my braces off and almost immediately began wearing a retainer. For whatever reason, it wasn’t long before I was able to start wearing my retainer only at night. This was a huge step! FREEDOM!
Of course, even though my Orthodontist, Dr. Allen, plainly told me that it was in my best interest to wear this retainer EVERY night, over time I slipped and wore it less and less.
But I never lost it. Ever.
All through high school, I would watch friends go digging back through the trash at fast food places, the school lunchroom, etc. to find their retainers. Because I only wore mine at night, it was easy to just pop it into the little green plastic container every morning and it was safe.
So, I never lost mine… until Friday night.
Recently, I noticed my teeth had been shifting – nothing major, just a little – and my front right tooth has been a bit sensitive. Ok, a LOT sensitive. [Hello, world! Look at me – I’m getting old(er)!] Because of this, I began wearing my retainer again for just a few hours a day. OH MY WORD, it really hurt at first. I never imagined my teeth and hard palate would’ve changed that much over the years… but then again, it had probably been 10 years or so since I’d even attempted to wear it. Maybe longer. So… OUCH.
Prior to Friday night, I ONLY wore the retainer a few hours before bed and would promptly take it out and return it to the little green plastic container. But this particular night, my tooth was giving me fits (nerve pain? dunno) so I popped the retainer in as I was getting dinner ready. My brother and his kids paid us a surprise visit and I got so wrapped up in playing with the babies that – when it came time for dinner – I took out my retainer and placed it on top of my purse, thinking I would easily see it there and take it upstairs later.
That’s the last I’ve seen of it.
I’ve looked everywhere. I took everything out of my purse. I offered my kids $5 to whoever found it somewhere in the house. (thanks for that suggestion, Kim!) Nada. I searched under furniture and inside toy bins. My last resort was the trash, because… well… ewwwwww!
By last night, it was clear there was only one option left. Ewwwww.
As I rummaged through our garbage, it hit me that:
1) Even if I found it, there’s NO WAY I would ever put it back in my mouth. Trash really is disgusting. And no amount of disinfectant would ever make me forget some of the sights and smells I encountered while digging through that. (In all of my years of being a mommy, I’ve either blocked it out completely or this is the first time I’ve actually had to rummage through the trash for something.)
2) in light of the fact I’d never wear it again even if I DID find it in the trash, the real reason I was searching high and low for my retainer wasn’t because I desperately NEEDED it – but more because it has sentimental value.
Yes, it’s true. The retainer, in it’s little green plastic container, has been with me for a long time, and I’ve just grown accustomed to having it. When I moved to college, the green container went with me. When I moved to Traverse City, it went there, too. The same for Nashville, the little farmhouse in Princeton, TX… on to Frisco, and back to Nashville again.
Somehow I managed to hang on to that thing for 27 years. It’s possible that I had a bit of pride over having… (wait for it)… RETAINED my retainer this many years. hahahaha Ahem. Ok…
I suppose it could show up. I’m sure it could. But perhaps it’s time to admit that – even though I was ABLE to wear it – it really didn’t “fit” me anymore. As with many things in life, there comes a time when you just need to put away the things in your past and admit that you’ve changed. When you’re young and fresh out of braces, you’re still growing and need that retainer to help maintain that which was put properly in its place. So maybe this whole thing with losing my retainer has shown me something deeper.
Is my inner “shape” different from when I was 14, which was in constant need of restraint and bridle? Yes, and no. While I will never be without the need to daily spiritual guidance and direction… the growth process calls for a re-fitting, if you will. The borders, barriers, checks and balances that I had at 14… 24, even… have changed now that I’ve matured. (Hopefully.)
So, maybe it’s just time to say goodbye to that ill-fitting retainer, bite the bullet and get one that fits.
But, you know… the mini-hoarder in me will still keep the little green container. 😉
It looks lonely, no?