My childhood dentist, John Martielli, died in a freak accident in the fall of 2000. I had returned to his care after moving back to Baltimore and found it very reassuring. Dr. Martielli, after all, had no reason to criticize the work in my mouth, as most of it was his. (I had broken three front teeth in a biking accident in San Antonio and an excellent dentist there put me back together.)
About the same time that Dr. Martielli died, I cracked two back teeth, which set into motion a long series of dental adventures — crowns, followed by an infection, then a root canal, then microsurgery to get what the root canal couldn’t. Most of this was done under the care of a dental practice whose care ran from indifferent to downright hostile. (With the exception of the doctor who did the microsurgery, Dr. John Emmett, who did a great job and was very apologetic about all the pain he had to inflict on me. But he was not part of this practice.) It also irritated me that they were so critical of Dr. Martielli, scoffing at his cleaning methods, saying that older dentists didn’t do a very thorough job. Meanwhile, they sorta forgot to fill the hole they drilled into my crown after the root canal, a fact I discovered only after I wised up and fled this practice. I’ve started over with a new dentist and the relationship looks promising.
But yesterday, after almost three hours in the chair, I couldn’t help thinking wistfully about Dr. Martielli — the orignal office in Woodlawn, the Highlights magazines (I loved Goofus and Gallant) and, if one were cavity-free — often I wasn’t — a trip to Bauhof’s Bakery around the corner for chocolate drop, cherry top, chocolate chip, and pink-and-white refrigerator cookies.
The bakery is still there, although owned by a different family, and the cookies are almost as good as a I remember them — more a commentary on my memory than the cookies, which are probably made from the same recipes, but what present-day cookie can compete with the ones you’ve dreamed about for 30-plus years? And the barbershop across the street has the “Time for a Haircut” clock that I long ago bequeathed to Tess Monaghan.
Really, shouldn’t there be a bakery around the corner from every dentist? And it turns out you can eat right away with these new fillings, which will be gradually replacing my old ones over the next year. Not because of Dr. Martielli, but because the old silver fillings don’t last forever. What does, my new dentist asked.