I was 11 when I found my mother’s jar of teeth. It hadn’t been lost or even hidden. I’d actually been dusting the container for years, not having the slightest inclination as to the contents within. I couldn’t even say what made that day unlike the rest. Curiosity, of course. But I’d always had that and, more often than not, gotten into trouble because of it.
Boredom? Well yes, but the act of dusting had never induced anything but ennui and ever-growing waves of lethargy. Vacuuming at least gives back the energy that the act expends, so that when you’re done you feel, if not invigorated, at least no worse off then when you started. Dusting is not a full-body chore so that the rest of you nods off while your hand and arm do all the work. Where vacuuming is for athletes, dusting is for couch potatoes. Luckily (or unluckily, I suppose), I was required to do both.
So, back to the jar. And the teeth. For whatever reason, that day, after I moved the antique porcelain swans (a pair), the two heavy glass perfume bottles and the old Clairol light-up makeup mirror off of her mirrored, etched glass vanity tray, my eyes fell on the porcelain capodimonte rose-topped container before I reached for it. Usually, I lifted it off as one piece, but that day I only removed the lid. It had a very intricate, well-crafted rose on top that was hell to fully dust without using a Q-tip, so I usually just flapped at it with the dust rag and considered it a job, if not well done, at least done.
I couldn’t quite make out what I was looking at inside the jar once the lid was removed, so I lifted it closer. And then nearly dropped it. Teeth! Little, white teeth. I was horrified. What kind of mad person keeps teeth in not just a jar, but a beautiful, old, porcelain rose jar? My mother, obviously.
And just whose teeth were they, anyway?