It was summer of 1969 and that Thursday night it took my father nearly 6 hours to drive up to the house located in the town of Bethel as opposed to the 2 1/2 hours from suburban NY.
"You wouldn't believe the traffic!" he said.
Mom said, "What's going on? We heard helicopters all day and 17B's flooded with cars."
Us kids knew better. There was a rock concert going on at Max Yasgur's farm up the street, a few miles away.
That summer was a definitive time for me. Bittersweet, in retrospect. And here's the short story I wrote and performed in front of a live audience in January 2012:
"Summer in White Lake"
by Maura Stone
Throughout my childhood, Dad joked, “Maura, you’re the only girl in New York who can eat an apple through a picket fence,” subsequently casting guilty glances in my mother’s direction. For they, and every other family member had perfect teeth. Which led to quiet ruminations late at night in the parental bedroom.
“Do you think she inherited those choppers from some Cossack who pillaged our ancestral village?” asked my mother, unaware I heard their conversation through the air vents.
“What other reasonable explanation could there be for her buck teeth?” said my father, “not to mention that massive space in between!” He never questioned my paternity even though Mom joked all the time about the mailman.
The other prominent feature that garnished attention was my feet. Dad called me “Flipper” even though I wasn’t a good swimmer. And when I turned thirteen, my breasts grew and grew, undeniably my mother’s daughter. No question where I inherited those. My father addressed the issue diplomatically. “Don’t worry, dear, you’ll never drown.”
As if my hormonal imbalance wasn’t bad enough, I was fitted for braces. Let me tell you, it was painful. Not as painful, though, as attending a suburban junior high school wearing metal encircling every tooth, wires strung in-between like railroad tracks, rubber bands connecting upper to lower mandibles enhanced with an ever-present night guard strapped to my head. I resembled some sort of cyborg.
Admittedly, I took advantage of my hideous appearance. “Maura, the principal’s office,” yelled Mrs. Daddeiro, the English teacher who, as hall monitor, heard shrieks of horror when, between classes, I crept up to unsuspecting fellow students busy at their lockers. “You should know better,” she chastised.
Then, there was fifth period. Lunchtime in the cafeteria. Where my charm and grace flew out the window. Along with food and rubber bands. Which one time hit Mrs. Daddeiro’s buttocks from forty feet away. “Maura! Principal’s office!”
The principal, stoic, mandated, “We need to keep our school safe. And you! No more corn, apples or anything that constitutes projectile weaponry!”
Sometimes he phoned my mother. “Mrs. Stone, please bring your pliers. Maura’s in another of her,” he gulped, “situations.” My mother arrived to pry me free when my mouth got stuck to a locker. Or a finger. Not necessarily mine. Or any utensil possessing magnetic properties. I’d stand there mouth open while Mom expertly clipped away. Of course, my classmates jeered at me, witnessing another milestone in humiliation.
Yes, puberty was hellacious. Especially with the moniker, “Metal Mouth.”
Until that summer.
Summers were spent at the family house in White Lake. The only time when the entire clan known for star quality choppers descended like locusts.
That summer, however, was magical. I turned fourteen. And had my first boyfriend.
He was from Beechwood, a year older than me. He didn’t notice my gapped front teeth protruding a perfect 90 degrees. He didn’t hear BBC broadcasts emanating from my mouth. He liked me. Liked me enough to kiss me. Without fear or incident. Without mom lurking in the background armed with her pliers. And, for my fourteenth birthday, he gave me an ID bracelet with the inscription, “To Maura. With love, Willy.”
Suddenly, I had friends galore in White Lake. And two weeks later, when we broke up and he took the ID bracelet away, I remained popular. Even more so. Boys from surrounding bungalow colonies - Lapidus, Zanes, White Lake Cottages - came over in droves. Because he bragged to everyone I put out.
Still, I felt blessed as it was a summer of firsts: my first boyfriend, my first kiss, the first time I smoked pot with actual hippies on the dock at Perlman’s bungalow colony and the first time I heard Innagadadavida in the soggy August night with thousands of people.
Life changed when I returned to suburbia that fall. I was no longer Metal Mouth Girl. Even my snaggly teeth and braces could not dissuade the fact that I was the only one in my school to have taken part in history. For White Lake in 1969 was the center of the universe, where the Woodstock Music Festival took place. And I was there. Finally cool at last.
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This blog and all its posts are a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.