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Smile Practice
by Kristina Yapp

"Everybody can see my eyes except for me."
Marko - 4 years old

I heard the above quote recently, and I found it to be brilliant.  My immediate reaction was that the genius behind this idea must be equal to the likes of Einstein, Newton and Da Vinci.  As it turned out, it was my own son who had said this over dinner.  Were you aware that mental capacity and IQ are always inherited maternally?  Studies have shown that there is no connection whatsoever between a man's brain and his sperm - therefore children's capacity for intelligent thought comes through the mother's genes only.  It's true - look it up.

I'm going to take that profound idea, and take it one step further.  Everybody can see my face except for me.  This idea made me start wondering what I look like to other people.  When I look in the mirror I look like a nice person who is pretty darn cute for her age.  But, what Marko said made me realize that I have never seen my actual face - the mirror is a reflection of my face.  Plus, when I look in the mirror, I always know I'm looking, so I make a point of looking nice.  Now, I don't know about you, but I often look at people when they don't know I'm looking - so it would be sensible to think that people look at me when I don't know they're looking.  That means that people are looking at me when I'm not making an effort to look like I'm nice.

You are probably thinking that I am spending way too much time thinking about something so stupid, and you might be right. Before you pass judgment, I think it is finally time for me to reveal some very secret and highly dangerous aspects of my life.  I only hope that, in sharing my story, I will not be putting you into mortal danger.  If you value your life, you may want to stop reading right now and forget you ever heard of me.  I won’t blame you.

For those of you willing to take this risk - I am finally ready to confide in you and you alone.  Just please, for both of our sakes, never repeat what I am about to tell you to anyone - not to your spouse, your children, your mother or your closest friend.  Most importantly, for your safety as well as mine, swear you will not breathe a word of this to a very tall limping man who is dressed all in black and has six fingers on one hand.

You see, when I was a very young child I witnessed an elusive mafia boss commit a crime. This criminal had been able to evade the great Detective Dave Diamond for over a decade.   Even though I was very young I was the only living person able to give an eyewitness account and a positive I.D.  I testified in court, putting this major mobster behind bars for one hundred years.  I was then placed in the witness protection program, hidden for the rest of my life from dangerous Sicilians who want me dead.  I am sure you are all intrigued, but unfortunately I am sworn to secrecy and cannot give you any more details.  In fact, what little I have said here could put me in a great danger. If this gets into the hands of the wrong people - a certain Organized Crime Ring from Chicago could make a major comeback. Still, I felt I needed to tell you this in order for you to understand the rest of my story.

As you probably realize,  it is imperative that no one be allowed to take pictures of me. Because I had single-handedly exposed the Cosa Nostra they, obviously, put out a hit on me.  Pictures of me are worth millions of dollars because they would reveal my whereabouts.  I was taught to avoid being photographed at all costs, and, as a last resort, to make a really stupid face if I couldn't avoid a camera.

I have never had a picture taken that is a true representation of what others see when they look at me.  The few photos that exist always show me making a really stupid face.

We members of The Witness Protection Program have no real idea what we look like.  This is just one sad reality that must co-exist with a life of covertness and peril.

I have never wanted my children to be nervous that bounty hunters might still be after me, so I never told them about my history.   That is why I cannot blame my son for taking a series of candid shots of me when I wasn't paying attention.  He was not aware that he was putting all of our lives in danger.

When I saw these pictures - the only undisguised photos of me in existence - I noticed something.  In each and every picture, I am frowning.    This is the first time in my life that I have seen an actual image myself.  And I look so mean! 

So, now I am making a conscious effort to smile all the time - no matter what. So, if I find a dead animal in my living room, I smile - if my son punches his brother right in the nose, I smile - If my husband wears the same shirt for five consecutive 98 degree days, and the air conditioner is broken, and he does not shower, swim, or wash, I smile.   If  I keep working on it, I will eventually have a permanent smile on my face.  If that doesn't work - there's always Botox.

Kristina Yapp is a preschool teacher who lives, works and writes in Steger, IL with her husband, four sons, dog and far too many cats.   As often happens with the approach of middle age, Kristina is actively rediscovering the love of creating art and literature that she had as a child.  In addition to teaching, hanging out with her family, doing laundry and writing short stories, she enjoys sharing her sometimes inspiring and sometimes distorted opinions about life on her blog, Fat Lazy Soccer Mom Gets Healthy:   Contact Kristina.