I stare at the 19 strangers encircling me and they look back at me – expectantly. I don’t like this kind of attention; even in small groups I prefer to keep quiet and let others do the talking. Together, we form a unit, ready to take on a small slice of the world, but beyond the nicknames we’ve just been assigned, we know almost nothing about one another. I’m supposed to say something about myself. Something unique. Something that makes me different from everyone else here. Something memorable.
I’m in my 20s, like most of the camp counselors, at the beginning of a two-month stint at a camp for inner city kids. The counselors all arrived early for initial introductions and icebreakers, and now we’ve hit the part of orientation I like to call “forced mingling through group games.” Rough girls from tough neighborhoods I can handle, but this, this is scary. Suddenly a thought crosses the panicked blank of my mind and I begin to ramble at the ring of faces watching me.
“You know that thing that hangs down everyone’s throat?”
Polite, uncomprehending stares. I start again.
“Have you ever read a story about someone yawning or about an animal opening its mouth really wide to swallow something?”
They look perplexed, but interested.
“In those pictures, there’s always something pink hanging in the dark opening, further back than the teeth, not quite in the throat. It’s called a uvula.”
I’m not sure they’re following.
“Do you know what I’m talking about?”
A few nods.
“Well … I’ve never met anyone who is like me in this way: I have two of those.”
I take a deep breath and sit back down, glad it’s over. There is a stunned silence while they all move from mental images of yawning storybook bears to visions of what can be found in my deceptively normal looking mouth.
Then something happens that I could not have expected. Everyone starts to clap and a few people cheer.
I am astounded. My heart warms. They like my interesting fact!
In the years that follow, I tuck this memory away, filing this fact in a mental drawer for future situations where I’m expected to say something astounding about myself. I’ve learned to take the pressure off of myself to be exceptional, when in fact all I have to do is share a bit about who I am.
Only one thing has changed since that summer at camp: I’m now a mother. My pregnancy was hard. I gained 60 pounds over the course of nine months and felt enormous when my daughter began wiggling herself into this world. We didn’t own a car at the time, so a midwife drove us to the hospital, where I spent the night pacing the halls and gripping my husband’s sweater. With the arrival of a new dawn came the baby: goopy and gorgeous, with a good head of shiny black hair and a voracious appetite. And good heavens, you’ll never guess … two uvulas.
Holly Dickson-Ramos is a freelance writer who lives with her husband and daughter in Ontario, Canada.
This article currently appears in the summer 2017 issue of The MOPS Magazine. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get The MOPS Magazine in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.