(Family Photo)

Mary Jo Anderson

55, Brookeville, administrative assistant,
the Ark Children’s Center

It happens in parking lots and grocery stores, at the playground and the pool. More often than not, strangers are the ones who speak up and surprise me. I’m caught off guard immersed in my to-do minutiae and astonished I’ve just made a difference in someone else’s life. My smile does that.

Forty years ago my parents considered the doctor’s comment, “She’ll be fine without braces, but cosmetically you’ll see a difference.” What swayed their decision, I wonder?

My brothers, already married and out on their own, hadn’t had braces. I was the youngest, their only girl.

Raised during the Depression, hard workers, they watched every penny carefully. Unless straightening my teeth was deemed absolutely necessary, I would have thought any other choice to be frivolous in their eyes. Somehow, they saw it differently.

Since the day the braces came off — my high school senior picture snapped that very afternoon — one tooth has returned to its independent stance. Another is not a perfect color match. That’s what I see, and yet I often hear, “You have a beautiful smile, gorgeous teeth.”

A gift from Mom and Dad, my smile is my calling card.

Recently, I greeted my friend’s sister. It had been several years since we first met. “Your hair is different,” she observed, “but I remembered your smile.”

Tell us about what you treasure and why: E-mail 250 words or fewer to WP Magazine. Please use “MINE” in the subject line, and include age, city and job.