Hen’s Teeth

I recently got off a phone call from the senior citizen group where I frequently volunteered until the lockdown brought everything to a grinding halt. I got updates on the tenants and all that had been going on since our world got turned upside down.

I had asked the question about who was complaining today. “Jane, you know all retirees have something to complain about. Finding a retired person or senior citizen who does not complain is like finding hen’s teeth. I ended my call but really thought about the last statement.

I remember a time when I had heard that statement for the first time. I think I had heard that something was as “rare as hen’s teeth.” Now, being the brat who reasoned things out I started feeling sorry for chickens. They had no teeth. Finding one with teeth was rare. So, that meant some chickens had teeth. Where did they get them? I really had to work on this one. Where oh where did hen’s teeth come from? This baffled me for quite some time until I lost my first tooth.

I was instructed to put the tooth under my pillow before I went to sleep. Grandmother had read the story about the princess and the pea to me. I decided I would not be able to sleep with a tooth under my pillow. I set up one of my baby doll’s beds, complete with a pillow, and the buried tooth. Sure enough, the next morning, there was a quarter where the tooth had been. I remember looking at the quarter and thinking about the fairy everyone had been talking about. I guess in the land where hen’s come from… they pay this fairy to bring them teeth. It all seemed logical to me. That is why some chickens had teeth even if it was rare.

Where did the hen’s get the quarters? They sold their eggs… maybe. It is more likely they gathered the lose change the farmers dropped when they were doing their chores. I was always finding loose change my daddy had dropped. That made more sense to me. I took the logic even further.

I could not imagine a land run by chickens. I had never heard of Chickenland. I knew when someone called you chicken it meant you were afraid. That made sense… I would be afraid too if I could not bite back. It was about that time-space travel had become a big deal. I heard about Pluto. There was a guy in my cartoons that was named Pluto. Maybe all this weird stuff happened on Pluto. Maybe the tooth fairy was from Pluto and it was run by chickens. I don’t know. I still don’t know and that was 60 years ago.

Now, we can find more and more things to grip about or we could work on something important. Like saving our teeth for the tooth fairy. When my grandmother was in her 80’s and there was the prospect of a new boyfriend in the senior apartment complex; her first question was.. does he have his own teeth. I guess she did not want to share hers. I know now when someone asks me if I want something special to eat I tell them. “I don’t eat anything if it is not worth me putting in my teeth.”

How we spend our time is important to us. Do you spend your day gripping, looking for things to grip about, or creating things to grip about? While gripping can become a habit so can looking for anything that will bring a smile to someone else. Even a toothless smile has value.

Retirement is about choices. You can be one of the rare ones (like hen’s teeth) or join in anything that promotes feel-good a smile, laughter, or even something that brings peace of mind. Looking only for what is wrong is a habit that can be broken. We have all been there. I am not saying that everything is sugar and spice. We all know sugar and spice and everything nice is where little girls come from. My grandmother was an authority on the subject. Smiling was one of the things she did best.

Only looking for the bad is as fruitless as thinking about Chicken Land and the Tooth Fairy on Pluto.

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