Oh my god, I’ve been here before! This hospital, I mean. No, it isn’t the one I just had my fibroid surgery in, it’s a different one. Much nicer!
I think this is where Bernadine had her kidney removed, or maybe where Tali had knee surgery or got her boobs off, or maybe it’s where my ex got his boobs off. After so long in the role of supporter for my friends various ailments, now I’m in the driver’s seat! Yeah!
Instead of getting shunted into a closet-sized curtain-covered cubicle like last time, Dashiell and I are ushered into our very own private room! There are chairs and magazines and a television set and some giant wheeled computerized contraption that does medical things. Dashiell bumps into it sort of hard and then trips out that he broke it, and I’m like, no way you can’t just break a giant sturdy important piece of medical equipment by, like, bumping it.
We gaze at the view of the dismal city out my window, all gray-skied and cold-looking. Soon comes a nurse named Marina joins us. Marina is so bright and smiley with her crimson lipstick, I just want to kill her for being adorable. Marina asks me if I’ve eaten anything that morning, and I tell her no.
“Nothing, no water, a little toast, you have yogurt, anything?” she smiles.
No, nothing I maintain. “You are the best patient!” she cheers me. “The best patient. You didn’t eat anything.”
I am bizarrely proud of myself and immediately want Marina to hang out in the room praising me for nonsense all day. The best patient! I look at Dashiell, who smiles at me proudly. She thinks it’s cool that I’m the best patient, too!
Marina goes and fiddles with the computer-medical thing Dashiell banged into, and she starts making murmurs of frustration. She’s hitting buttons and plugging and unplugging things and finally calls for backup.
“This stupid thing won’t work,” she grumbles. “We’ll get someone to fix it.”
Me and Dashiell try not to look at each other, because it is now obviously that she totally broke it, and somehow it feels like if we look at each other one of us will make some sort of face or a noise and Marina will just know it’s our fault. And then I won’t be the best patient anymore.
Marina’s co-worker fixes the computer and Marina gifts me with a grotesque pair of underwear that have a seam up the crotch and look like they were made by a mad woman locked in an attic with a sewing machine. I also get a pad from the year 1962. I’m to take out my tampon and put on this under-situation. Soon it’s time for me to leave Dashiell, to be taken to the little holding pen where I meet my medical team one by one and am eventually brought into surgery.
Marina leaves me with an US Magazine and a Pottery Barn catalog. I am thrilled to see that Pottery Barn has a line of undersea-themed Xmas tree ornaments! This year I am making Dashiell celebrate Xmas with me. We’re going to celebrate Chanukah as well –- in fact, I even propose topping a tree with a Star of David, but Dashiell doesn’t like mixing the holidays up.
So, she’s covering Chanukah, laying out a piece of tin foil on an end table and setting up her Menorah atop it, and I’m on Xmas, which means Dashiell buys us a little Charlie-Brown tree from the Xmas Tree lot in the Castro, plus a wreath for our door, plus, from my mom, an insane white-tinsel-and-fiber-optic tree sent us in the mail. I become obsessed with getting lots and lots of ornaments for both our trees.
I’m sort of sheepish about how much I like getting into the holiday. I spent eight years living with a total Grinch, feeling like a goober about my seasonal inclinations. Any head way I made with my efforts to celebrate came at such a cost, it wasn’t worth it. Nothing makes you feel like a loser like forcing someone into a half-hearted and resentful holiday cheer.
But Dashiell is into it. I mean, she’s not all Xmas spirit, hanging mistletoe around the house and whatnot. But she says, repeatedly, “I like that you’re into it.” Which makes me want to defensively snap, "I’m not into it!" But clearly I am into it.
I’m making Xmas tree ornaments in the kitchen from flour, glue and cinnamon. Come on. To use corporate speak, I’m running point on Xmas. It’s my thing.
Is Xmas my thing? I finally have a partner who wants to celebrate holidays with me and I’m still feeling a little weird and nerdy inside. I try to override it. The reason I insisted we celebrate holidays this year -– and if I am to be honest, I sort of did insist -– is because I want us to celebrate holidays as a family, with our kid, who hopefully will be making it to the celebrations next year. What do we want our family traditions to be?
I get all obsessed with Pagan Solstice ideas. I feel like I am celebrating Solstice, even though I call it Xmas, because the basic traditions of bringing light inside your house, feasting and giving presents, hanging a tree with ornaments -– these are all classic Pagan traditions the marauding Christians co-opted to better convert the people to their side. Pretty much all holidays are -– Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, the works.
I look into various Pagan traditions, but they’re pretty much what we’re already doing. I keep calling the holiday "Christmas" even though I’m not celebrating "Christ." I guess it’s sort of how I call my higher power "God," even though she doesn’t resemble the Christian god in the slightest. Part of it is laziness, or a sheepishness about getting too out there with my lingo, and part of it is just accepting my place and time in this life. Plus, if the Christians appropriated Pagan holidays why can’t I, a Pagan, appropriate them back?
Dashiell is a little weirded out by the whole Santa thing. Like how you just lie to your kids for a decade.
“Didn’t you get pissed when you found out?” she asks. More like depressed.
I remember the Xmas I found out. I was miserable and couldn’t even talk to my sister about it, because she was still believing. I half-envied her blissful ignorance, half wanted to warn her she was being played for a fool. My godmother found me sulking in my father’s office during our holiday party.
“I know you’re upset now,” she tried soothing me. “But know when it will all be okay?”
“When I open my presents in the morning,” I ventured. It’s true that getting stuff generally clears up my depression.
“No,” she laughed. “When you’re a mother and get to do it for your children!”
I sort of wanted to smack my godmother, who had converted to Moromonism, in the head. Me, having kids? Even at 10 years old I knew that if that was something I was ever going to do it wouldn’t be for a long, long time.
But now’s my chance! The joy promised to me decades ago by my godmother, who I haven’t spoken to since she bought me a pair of stiletto clogs at the Salvation Army in the 80s. It’s practically my birth right, this Santa thing. As much as it stings to find out you’ve been mad punked by the entire culture -– well, it sort of sets you up for life a little, doesn’t it? Plus the mania you experience believing there are flying reindeer on your roof is a childhood must!
Anyway, I’m psyched to find mermaid ornaments in the Pottery Barn catalog because I want our real tree to have a nautical theme (a garland of little wooden dinghies and some lighthouse ornaments have already been bought on the Internet); the fiber-optic tree, which flashes a rainbow of colors and has little light-up stars at the tips of its "branches," is to be decorated with whatever ornaments tickle my fancy, thus far a collection of glittery glass representations of our favorite food -– Oreos, pancakes, snow cones and a swirling piece of pink ribbon candy, in honor of my grandmother, who used to serve the tasteless candy every holiday. I’m super in the spirit! Deal with it.
I’m worried that after I come out of surgery I won’t remember the Pottery Barn ornaments, the way Carrie on "Homeland" forgot her Issa revelation right before her electr-shock therapy! I look around for something to write with but there are only magazines, and me in my weird surgery get-up, and an old man sitting in the corral before me, nodding off.
My anesthesiologist comes by and introduces himself. He is a slender black man who seems totally gay, but then most men seem gay to me. A hazard of my life, wherein most men are gay. He tells me about my anesthesia, which won’t be so intense as last time, but I won’t feel a thing.
Soon after that Dr. Wendy stops by. “I have your IUD in the trunk of my car,” she says. “I’m going to run out for it now.”:
“OK. . . “
“And I’ll call in a prescription for your birth control pills. You can pick them up with your other stuff, your painkillers and Ibuprofen. Start taking them immediately.”
I realized I thought that what was inside my uterus was more of an unknown, but it seems like Dr. Wendy is gearing up for it to be scar tissue, where the sides of my uterus knit together during the healing for my last surgery. It’s all the same to me, at this point.
I’m walked into a small operating room where no music is playing, and climb up onto the operating bed. The gay anesthesiologist plugs the anesthesia into the needle that is already stuck in my arm, waiting for it. I pass out quickly, with Dr. Wendy rubbing my hand.