Smile, because you aren't wearing braces anymore.

Matt and I took this week off to spend time going through the piles of accumulated junk in our house. We’re purging, cleaning and organizing our little butts off. Today, in particular, we gutted our home office and started the process of going through boxes that have barely been touched since we moved in.

I happen to be a fairly sentimental type and I keep things that mean something to me. Sometimes they are reminders of the really amazing friends I’ve had throughout my life.

When I opened one box, I knew I’d be spending a while examing its contents. It was filled with cards, letters and notes from people I’ve known - mostly as a teenager and into my early twenties. There was one note that hurt to read - though not as much as when I received it. My relationship with the authors had changed and I don’t think it ever fully recovered back then. Now that we’re all adults, the memories of those times have faded and I see the people they have become and I’m glad I’ve restored contact even though our paths diverged in life.

I kept the note. It doesn’t have the power to hurt me that it did back then. But it taught me today that nothing is insurmountable.

What was overwhelmingly obvious was that I have had many people in my life who appreciated and cared about me - even if they were only a part of my life for a short time. I saw names that I no longer remember saying beautiful things to and about me. Piles of birthday cards and Christmas cards from my (then) teenaged friends. I don’t remember doing Christmas cards for my friends, but maybe I did.

There was one note that stuck out above all the rest. There is no name, but it was clearly written by a boy in one of my classes. I think I know who wrote it, but there are 3-4 possibilities, so I’m not 100% sure. It was a note passed to me in class. And it had to have been in 10th grade*, though there is no date. This note made me smile and I couldn’t resist sharing it:

Hey Karen, what’s up? How are you? Why do you seem so depressed lately?

Me: I don’t know exactly. I just haven’t been very happy with anything.

Smile, because you aren’t wearing braces anymore.

Me: That really won’t help any.

So?

Indeed.

I often forget how blessed I’ve been by friends throughout my life. This friend just wanted me to smile. He cared enough about my state of mind to work at coaxing it from me when I wasn’t willing.

I hope I smiled when I got this note like I am as I read it again nearly 18 years later.

I think I’ll keep this note, too.

*****

*My braces were removed two weeks into my 10th grade year. I walked into classes late that day, smiling wide as one of the guys yelled out, “Do your teeth feel like snot?” And all the kids who’d had braces laughed because, yes, they did.