In 1970, we moved from the town of Moate in County Westmeath, Ireland to Oxnard, California. I was ten. After a few months in our new home, I realized that everything about us was different from our Southern California surroundings. Our speech, our hair, our clothes, and most noticeably, our mouths. My family looked like we had spent time with our heads lodged in a hornet’s nest, trying to kiss one of the devils. We each had tiny, pink lips that looked as if they could pop right off of our faces at any moment, and when we smiled, our small mouths housed rather large but strong choppers. My baby sister proved to have the strongest teeth, as we had to replace her mangled pacifier every couple of months. I spent a lot of time standing in front of a mirror, turned slightly, my hands shoved into the pockets of my jeans, and casually speaking to myself over my shoulder. I overpronounced each word that I spoke, and stretched my mouth to look big and American.
“Wanna play some ball?” I would say, pulling my lips tightly across my fencelike teeth. When I tried this approach at school, the other boys turned away in disgust. I decided to try finding another way to make myself look more American, and I thought that I would start at the bottom.
“My shoes…” I mumbled to my dad one day.
“Your what?” he said. The ever-present cigarette that dangled from his mouth looked like a piece of rubber when he spoke. “Your what?” he responded again and turned his ear towards me for emphasis.
“I’ve got to get the right shoes, Dad,” I said, earnestly.
BY KIM KOLARICH
BY BRYAN GRAFTON
by LAURA EPPINGER
BY CHARLES HANSMANN