“I want to give you pretty things, like seashells, forehead kisses and promises I’ll never break.”

My smile isn’t what it used to be. I’ve managed to put some miles on my smile, which is inevitable for anybody who’s ever allowed another person into their heart. That sounds negative, but it’s a neutral fact of life. Honestly, if I were to meet an adult whose smile shined as if it had never been touched, I wouldn’t trust that person. Nobody would trust that person. We would all call that smile “fake” and take everything that person told us with a grain of salt.

A smile isn’t beautiful for how big or bright it is. A smile is beautiful for the soul behind it. My smile as a kid was a big, goofy smile, with every one of my teeth out on full display. It was innocent and genuine and reflected my good fortune to have amazing parents and siblings and friends. My smile is a thin line that barely curls at one end. I hate showing my teeth, or even opening my mouth, so I know my smile must look miniscule compared to when I was a kid.

But I’m still smiling. I like to listen to NPR in the mornings and at lunch, and after getting through the dense political stories, they always have a lighter piece that makes me crack a smile. I like listening to my coworkers talk about their kids, and when I see the pictures of their birthday parties or trips to the beach, I can’t help but point and chuckle and smile along with everyone in my office. I like watching stand-up comedians, and short skits on YouTube, and re-runs of Who’s Line is it Anyway, and since I’m often (always) watching alone, I laugh out loud, and my mouth can’t stay closed, so all my teeth are showing, and my lips are curled up, and I can feel my cheeks lifting, and my dimples showing, but I don’t even think about it in the moment, because I’m just enjoying the moment.

I don’t have a smile at work while I’m trying to make month end adjustments on my balance sheet, but I smile a bit when it’s finally done. I don’t smile when I’m prepping up dinner for myself, but I know that when I take that first bite of a new recipe, and it’s not a complete failure of a meal, I feel a sliver of pride, and I eat my dinner with a smile on my face. I don’t smile when I’m driving to and from anywhere. I don’t smile when I’m out shopping, or shoveling snow, or applying for new jobs. I don’t smile during Autumn, nor in the weeks following the New Year, and never, ever, on May 3rd. I don’t smile more often than I do smile, but the fact remains that I do smile.

So, my smile isn’t what it used to be, but it’s still there. It’s a bit smaller, and the moments when it comes are further and further apart, but it’s still there. And as more years are added to my life, I’m sure my smile will shrink and shrink even more…but it will never fully disappear.

My smile isn’t what it used to be, but I’m still smiling, still hoping, still living. I’m still here, and that has to count for something.

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