Sanctuary: Blog

A 30 Year Old Toothbrush

Submitted by: Sarah Yanosy, Director of the Sanctuary Institute


Spring is supposed to be a time of newness and re-birth, but one spring day this year offered me the chance to reflect on the importance of the past.  I attended the birthday party of my best friend’s daughter this past weekend and was visiting with my best friend’s mother, Mrs. Dreher.  My parents were high school teachers who had to find morning childcare for my brother and me when we were in elementary school, and Mrs. Dreher volunteered to help out.  Each day, they would drop us off at Mrs. Dreher’s house, and she would send the three of us off to school together, my best friend, my brother and me.  At this recent birthday party, Mrs. Dreher was sharing that she had recently done some spring cleaning and came across the toothbrush that she had kept at her house for me when I stayed with her those mornings.  She would give me breakfast then ensure that I went off to school with fresh breath and clean teeth.  (Apparently, my brother’s oral health was less a concern, since she did not have a toothbrush for him.  If memory serves correctly, he rarely used one anyway!) 

For approximately 30 years, my toothbrush has sat in her linen closet in a small pink travel case, and it still sits there today.  She told me that even as she tossed out old tubes of Neosporin and other assorted first aid remedies, she kept the toothbrush “just in case you ever stop by and need to brush your teeth.”  We had a very hearty laugh and a tear or two at this sweet gesture.  That silly pink travel toothbrush was a symbol of a friendship between her daughter and me that had spanned grade school, middle school, high school, college, graduate school, lives build in different states, our weddings, the bumps in our marriages, and the arrival of four children between us.  It was a reminder of where we had been, the connection we had forged, and the bond of a friendship that feels like family.  I counted myself lucky to have something so deep and lasting.

That same night, I noticed that a number of Andrus graduates had been reconnecting with each other on Facebook.  I had the sense that this electronic forum, so different from the tangible object of a toothbrush, was in many ways the same for these young men and women:  a symbol of belonging to each other and to something that had shaped who they have become.   I read their posts with a hope that they were feeling about Andrus what I had felt with Mrs. Dreher – a sense of lasting connection, of being known and cared for.  I had a momentary fantasy that we could keep the toothbrushes of all the children who left Andrus.  I quickly realized that that would be gross and decided that that the Facebook posts were much more sanitary.  To each his own as it relates to holding tight to being loved - toothbrushes or Facebook -  but for all of us, I hope that the feeling of having a shared history and memories of being treated with kindness persist.

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