A Toothbrush Tale

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Toothbrush display in a drug store in Cleveland, Ohio, December 1923
Toothbrush display in a drug store in Cleveland, Ohio, December 1923

More than one dental hygienist over the years has suggested that I use an electric toothbrush, so when I came upon one for a great price at Aldi a few months ago, I bit the bullet (pun intended). This inexpensive model came with a built-in timer. The toothbrush stays on for two minutes, stopping for a millisecond every thirty seconds so I can brush my lower right teeth for thirty seconds, upper right teeth for thirty seconds, etc.

Toothbrush Drill, Fairfield, Alabama, c. 1919
Toothbrush Drill, Fairfield, Alabama, c. 1919

Sometimes it’s strange what you remember. I can’t tell you how many times through the years I have thought about a conversation with an acquaintance from my earliest years of being a mama. She, a dental hygienist by trade, told me excitedly about a gift she had purchased for her child — a two-minute timer shaped like a tooth, designed, of course, to help a child brush for the proper length of time.

Woman makes toothbrushes at home in Leeds, Massachusetts, 1912
A mama makes toothbrushes at home in Leeds, Massachusetts, 1912
Another woman makes toothbrushes in her home in Leeds in 1912
Another woman makes toothbrushes in her home in Leeds in 1912

My acquaintance was really excited. I hope I was mature enough not to let my inner feelings show because not in my wildest imagination could I see a child being excited about a toothbrush timer shaped like a tooth! And, now here I am three decades later, brushing my teeth for two minutes with the help of a toothbrush timer.

Federal Art Project poster, c. 1939
Federal Art Project poster, c. 1939

That mama showed her love in a way that never would have occurred to me, but she was still loving her child in one of the best ways she knew how based on her own personal experience. That’s what we all have to do morning by morning. And, when we do that, our loving deeds might not look like the loving deeds of some other mama we know. They might not even look like the loving deeds of any mama we know.

But, you know what? It’s okay to be the exact kind of mama God made you, even if you don’t look like any other mama. It’s okay if your children don’t look like other children either.

Let your speech always be with grace,
as though seasoned with salt,
so that you will know
how you should respond to each person.
Colossians 4:6

All photos courtesy Library of Congress.

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  1. Amen! So thankful that God knows what He is doing even when we don’t always know ourselves. So very thankful for my Mom and for the mama God is making of me. Even now I pray for my daughter and the kind of mama she will be one day (train up a child–teach her how to be a mama so when that time comes, she’ll know what to do! And likewise for our son as a dad!). Thank you for encouraging so many of us each day to keep doing what we are doing by God’s grace.