Today is Wednesday. Wednesday! I've had two days to recover from a marathon weekend at work. And I do not yet feel whole or human. I've neglected my house and family. Today I did things I wanted to do. I gardened and puttered. I listened to a book on tape and I wrote. I wrote the beginnings of a memoir. Oh it feels weird to say that. A memoir as if I have something to say. My indulgent words may not go anywhere or do anything. And yet they kept me from making a hair and nail appointment for my soon to be graduating 5th grader.
Hair and nails for a 5th grader! For graduation! This flabbergasts me. And yet I simultaneously get it. We all love pampering -- the massage of the scalp and the feet. Pretty perfect toe nails. Well styled hair. I simply didn't know to ask for it, to demand it, at the fragile age of eleven. And, I think, in many ways I've chosen to ignore my daughter's pampering requests despite her vehement insistence. I am ignoring the fact that my middle child is a step closer to womanhood.
At her age I was still stomping through the desert hunting lizards with a pack of boys. How oh how am I going to survive middle school? Once, as a tomboy, was bad enough. How to handle it with a bonafide girl?!!
Tonight I'm cooking a conciliatory dinner. An apology if you will for being absent this weekend. For schlepping the kids to their grandparents and for being, well, a zombie. For indulging myself and not making those appointments.
We are having sogliola alla fiorentina (Sole, Florentine Style). Only I'm substituting fresh caught wild snapper for the sole. It has lemon and fresh spinach and butter and cream. And the piece de resistance? (yes I know this is French rather than Italian; we'll just pretend I'm multi-lingual here). Parmigiano reggiano direct from Italy. Delicioso!
And here is my offering to you. A portion of what I wrote today. A part of me I don't always talk about or show on this page. It is raw. And honest. And perhaps too much. The beginnings of something that may or may not become anything.
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When I pick up my kids from school I invariably find myself surrounded by young girls who want to be veterinarians. I smile awkwardly, shuffle my feet and wonder what to say to them. The reality of my profession is vastly different than the adolescent fantasy. It is different, too, from the idyllic quaint and quirky days of James Herriot.
My daughters’ friends envision happy clients arms full of exuberant puppies and cardboard boxes overflowing with tumbling playful kittens. There is the occasional broken leg to be sure. A puppy who, perhaps, fell from it’s owner’s arms. The injury easily remedied with a cast, a decorative heart and a plethora of tender loving care.
These children do not envision a client so distraught that she is clawing the walls as if she’s been buried alive and is trying to dig her way out. They do not imagine this woman wailing and moaning her voice so loud it can be heard outside. They do not picture this woman falling into a heap on the exam room floor and you, standing there, unsure whether or not to touch her or speak or call the police for assistance.
They do not imagine a hospital full of dogs; each plagued by profuse bloody projectile diarrhea. They can not fathom this excrement on your shoes or clothing or hands or face. They do not understand that such diarrhea travels like a wave at a football stadium; one patient after another; the odor from one enough to cause bowel eruption in the next.
These children do not picture arduous nights with dogs who will not, not even for one precious second, stop whining. The noise ever present, rattling your brain, and you, sleep deprived, utterly exhausted teetering on the edge of complete collapse.
They do not conceptualize necrotic wounds, ripe from the summer sun, writhing and dripping with maggots. The smell so intense, so putrid, that your guts recoil and you stave off nausea as you pick the bugs, one by one, from an animal who is incomprehensibly still alive.
These children, in their protected pocket of the world, have yet to contemplate financials. They’ve yet to walk that precarious tight rope between income and expense. They’ve not yet fathomed six-figure student loans or business costs. And they can not, even remotely, imagine a client unwilling or unable to pay for treatment.
And so I smile. And benignly quip “that’s nice.” Because I don’t know how and do not want to say these things to a ten-year-old.