The time I met my future in-laws with my mouth wired shut

Okay, technically, it wasn’t wired shut – it was rubber banded shut, which gave me a little bit of give to shove soft foods into my face.

But I digress…shocking, I know…

The year was 1993. I had gone back to college one August to meet this cute guy. We became friends, started dating, and were engaged by the end of the semester. Even now, I kind of think “How did that happen?”

We went to college in Ohio. My family was in Chicago, his was in Arkansas.  Together, we plotted a road trip – because college was all about the road trip. I’d drive down and meet his family, then he’d drive up with me and meet mine. Easy peasy.

Except I had jaw surgery scheduled for December 22nd, so the plans hung on whether the doctor would say I was good to go. Luckily, one of my skills then was healing well, my doctor was giddy with delight with how well I was healing, and told me I could go meet my fiance’s family, as long I was back the next week for another follow up.

I borrowed my mom’s car, and I made my first solo road trip, driving into an unknown land.

With my mouth basically clamped shut.

In retrospect – it was really the most ideal way to meet future in-laws. These rubber bands roped around brackets on my teeth, top and bottom, and only allowed for minimal movement. Talking was hard, and I basically muttered through all the bands as my mouth could only open up about the width of my tongue. And I know that because when Josh saw I basically couldn’t talk, he teased me, and I tried to stick my tongue out. It didn’t work.

The perk of all this? Was that there was no way I could overtalk. See, when I get nervous, I chatter. It’s genetic really. I will open my mouth, keep talking, even after I stick my foot into it. I’m just that talented. But being unable to say too much? I was about to make the greatest of impressions!

Well, I did make an impression.

In three days time, Josh dragged me around half the state, introducing me to half of his 38271 relatives. All of them welcoming me warmly, most of them trying to feed me. I still feel bad that his grandma was flustered with how to feed me. Grandma fed people, and here I was, not able to eat much. So she made me a pot of potato soup. Like, a three quart pot of soup. I hate soup. I really hate creamy things. I ate the soup, because I was not about to insult Josh’s grandma. Turns out Grandma made that soup with magic, because it was absolutely delicious. She also made me jello, offered to make me pudding, and at one point stood at her refrigerator fretting over what else to feed me.

Meanwhile, Josh’s grandfather stated that I had “gumption” for coming to meet everyone with my jaw the way it was. Having gumption was a compliment, and I earned his respect for having it.

Then we went to Josh’s aunt and uncle’s for dinner. His aunt made spaghetti, then was horrified to find out half my family was Italian, until I assured her my mom’s way of making pasta sauce was opening a can of Ragu. (If she had made lasagna, now that might have been an issue. My mom makes a killer lasagna.) As New Year’s Eve was about to happen, his aunt asked me if I was going to be able to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Eve.

I had no clue what she was talking about.

“You know, for luck.”

“I’m from Chicago.” I stated. Well, it came out “Ihhm fwom sicawgo.”

(You really don’t realize how much mouth movement is necessary for forming letters until you can’t move your mouth.

What I was trying to say was “In Chicago, we don’t have any sort of New Year’s Eve traditions that require eating of certain beans, so I think I’ll be safe enough if I don’t manage to get one into my mouth this year. And by the way, not to be ignorant, but I’m not even sure I know what a black eyed pea is.”

Instead, I said “Ihhm fwom sicawgo.”

Yes, I can have my mouth wired shut and still be a dork. It’s my talent.

I do wonder, the next time I visited, were they surprised by just how much that Yankee girl could talk? “She seemed so quiet last time…now she won’t shut up!”

Nah. I’m sure it was fine.

Fashionable me in college, talking...
Fashionable me in college, talking…


This is part of the 31 Days writing challenge…to find out more about it or read more from this challenge, check out the 31 Days page!