Christmas themes

17 Dec

I just can’t help myself. I cannot enter the Christmas season without thinking about…you’ve probably guessed this already…teeth. Oh, you mean you don’t associate Christmas with teeth? Hmm…how can you not?

I guess it started w…a…y… back in my childhood with that old Christmas favorite, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” Remember that song, sung by a kid with a prominent lisp due to missing his two front teeth? I may even still have that little 45 rpm record in my collection somewhere. If I don’t have it, my sister has it in a box in her garage.

I guess that’s where the association started. Then, from there, it moved to my absolute favorite Christmas TV show, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Poor Hermey the Elf…he was such a misfit because he wanted to be a dentist, NOT a toy maker for Santa Claus. No wonder he and Rudolph bonded…both were expected to fit into society’s expectations for their life and career paths, and they just could not. And, then of course, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for poor Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster who was constantly in a very foul mood due to his, you guessed it, toothache.

I imagine that many XLH-ers can relate to the Misfit theme AND the bad teeth theme, since we not only have to deal with the challenges of being under-tall and the other bone challenges, but the added challenge of getting a mouthful of…well, problems. And so, Christmas time comes around and I’m thinking about teeth. My teeth, Bumble’s teeth and that poor kid who’s missing his two front teeth. We are not alone.

Now, my dentist actually has said to me that XLH-ers are no more likely to have tooth problems than Mercedes-Benz owners. The day he said that to me I thought, “Only people with good teeth probably own Mercedes Benz’s since they haven’t had to spend so much money on their teeth!” Anyway, I didn’t argue with him when he made that declaration because, well, I just love my dentist. He’s no Hermey, of course…he’s very tall, and not elf-like at all, but he’s hilarious and makes me laugh in a show-my-teeth kind of way, which I usually try not to do. But, thanks to my dentist, the childhood Christmas-is-all-about-teeth theme is still a prominent theme in my adulthood.

It started sort of like this…I was at a routine visit, sometime in the fall a couple of years ago, and he discovered I needed yet another crown. So, that year, sometime around Christmas, all I got for Christmas was a crowned back tooth. Anyway, since he knew I was a banjo-picker, he told me that he would love to learn some Christmas carols on the banjo and asked if I would teach him. I said sure, just as long as he didn’t want to learn “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Don’t get me wrong…that is a beautiful song. But it has a ridiculous number of chords in it, and since it only gets played a couple of times a year in the month of December, I can never remember the chords. Whenever I have been asked to accompany Christmas carolers with my guitar, I always say, “Please don’t sing ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ because I don’t remember the chords and I can’t see the music out here in the dark.” Great song, but I have to relearn it every year.

Anyway, Dr. Tooth, which I will call him for the sake of his privacy, said, “Well, then, THAT’S the Christmas carol I want to learn on the banjo! I will pay you for lessons and I want you to teach me that song.”

Well, of course, I could find no arrangements for “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the banjo. No books or cd’s for banjo had that song at that time. So, I wrote an arrangement for the banjo. I kept it simple, feeling very sure that he could learn my arrangement. I even wrote it in tablature, since he couldn’t read music. (Tablature, in case you’ve never heard of this, is a system of writing music that is a very simple chart that one can read to know which string to play and which fret to press on a banjo.)

We worked on this for several weeks. I met him at his office, and we sat out in the lobby, plunking out this familiar tune on an instrument that you usually don’t associate with quiet, sweet, melodic Christmas carols. And let me tell you…I have succeeded in a lot of things in my life, but teaching Dr. Tooth how to play “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the banjo is not one of them.

So, just last week, I went to see Dr. Tooth for my 6-month check-up. I guess I should mention that LAST December, right before Christmas, I had another tooth that decided to kill itself. I am not kidding, either. It’s called resorption and there are two types: external resorption and internal resorption. In external resorption, the tooth attacks itself from the outside and works towards the inside. In internal resorption, the tooth attacks itself from the inside and works its way out. It really sounds to me like some kind of video game invented by dentists, but he said that though it’s very unusual, he had seen it before. (I think he said I had internal resorption, not external. External resorption is generally the result of an injury.) Anyway, he sent me to someone else to have him pull that tooth, and low and behold, when the oral surgeon was done, he said, “You should go back to your dentist today, if possible and let him take another look. The tooth behind the one I just pulled out is probably going to have to come out, too. Same problem.”

So, I went a few days later and Dr. Tooth agreed that it would eventually have to come out, too. That was a year ago. It’s still hanging in there, but last week Dr. Tooth said we should go ahead and just schedule to pull it out and what was I waiting for? I told him that I knew it had a silver filling in it and I was waiting for the price of silver to go up a little more before he pulled it out. He didn’t buy that. Oh well. Here we go again. Another December tooth event to add to my list.

Of course, while I was there and since we’re in the Christmas season, he said he really wished he had been able to play “O Little Town of Bethlehem” on the banjo with all those lessons I’d given him. I told him that I felt like I had failed him as banjo teacher, since I had not been able to teach him that song. “Oh no,” he said, “I just couldn’t get my fingers to work right. It’s not your fault. Using my fingers to play the banjo is a different muscle movement than using them to pull teeth.” That is true, but still, still, still…I wonder, as I wander.

Now, every December, every Christmas season, I think of teeth. Hermey, Bumble and his toothache and subsequent bad mood, the singing kid with the missing two front teeth, my disintegrating teeth that tend to need attention in December and my crowned teeth, my dentist and “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It’s all there. I have told Dr. Tooth that eventually we all end up eating mashed potatoes, so what’s a few missing teeth (as long as they’re mostly in the back.) It worked for Bumble, who now has a very charming smile and no teeth, thanks to Hermey‘s dentistry skills. And I love mashed potatoes.

And my dentist. And “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

O Little Town of Bethlehem in Banjo Tablature

Should you have the misfortune of having a banjo-picker in your life, here’s a little last-minute stocking stuffer for him or her. If there’s a big enough demand for it, I might even post a recording.

Copyright S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries, 2012-2017




2 Responses to “Christmas themes”

  1. powellpic December 19, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    TEETH PROBLEMS!!!!! I can relate! I too have had way too many root canals, crowns…. Would love to pull all and get implants but am not sure if they work well with XLH. Do you know?

    I wish you a wonderful Cristmas!


    Sent from my iPad

    • banjogrrldiaries December 19, 2012 at 9:52 am #

      I don’t know if implants will work, but my dentist assures me that I have enough bone that he can do one in one of the empty places I have near the back. I might try it. Unfortunately, he also says that insurance rarely covers the cost of implants. I don’t have dental insurance, though.

      Merry Christmas to you, too, Brannan! Great to hear from you!

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