What it takes to finally smile

What it takes to finally smile


I never smiled until I was five years old. My parents tried everything to get that grin going. They tickled me, made funny faces and silly sounds, hired a clown. But I sat there stone faced.

When I was five our house caught fire. It was the middle of the night. My family and I escaped with nothing but the PJs on our bodies. We stood on the sidewalk across the street and watched the inferno engulf our home. The fire department came and did their best, but after a few hours there was nothing left.

My mom got all excited because she noticed I was smiling.

It was true. I was smiling. I felt both ends of my mouth stretched out in places they’d never been before. It felt like my tongue was cupping a glob of sugar.

I joined hands with my sister, mom, and dad, as we giddily danced in a circle around our dog Pesky, who was leaping high in the air. We spontaneously sang, “Woo-di-doh-doh-doh-do!”

I noticed stares from the fire department members, and a few of our neighbors. But it didn’t stop our spectacular response, or my smile.

That night we slept in a Howard Johnson motel. Actually everyone was asleep but me. I was looking up at the curious dark shapes on the ceiling that were moving ever so slowly. They emanated a slight jingling. I imagined they were trying to tell me something, but of course I didn’t know what.

Pesky woke to their sounds. He looked up and watched their movements too. He jumped onto the bed and barked at the shapes. That’s when they stopped and my family woke up. I kept what I experienced a secret. These kind of things gain in personal value when you don’t share them.

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