I’m Feeling a Little Less Wise

wisdom teeth

I don’t mind going to the doctor. Heck, I don’t even mind going to the hospital. But say the word “Dentist” and I’m running in the opposite direction.

This Thursday I was forced to go there however, to get one wisdom tooth removed. Compared to getting four out at once, I shouldn’t have been petrified. But after having one bad experience as a child, I can never be too sure about these dentist types. I’d never been under anesthesia before and I certainly didn’t like the idea of having my face swell up like a balloon. But I had no choice.

My dentist is located in the town I grew up in, about forty-five minutes from where I live now with my grandparents. Fortunately, my dad’s best friend Nina lives in a neighboring town and took me to my appointment.

I couldn’t eat or drink for six hours before the surgery and by the time I was sitting in the waiting room at two o’clock in the afternoon, I could hear my stomach growling. Fear and hunger do not go well together.

When my name was called, Nina and I followed the male nurse and I took a seat in the reclining patient chair. Hanging above me was an IV containing the anesthesia and a metal table with an array of metal tools that I assumed were about to be entering my mouth in the next several minutes.

The doctor and nurse spoke with Nina about after-care and I sat there like a deer in the headlights. They kept calling Nina my mom but instead of correcting anyone, I stayed silent. Sometimes, it’s easier to let people believe what they want. Plus, it gives the illusion that I come from a normal family and sometimes it’s nice to pretend that I do.

The nurse took my vitals and before I even had a chance to become a complete nervous wreck, he asked for my glasses—leaving me completely blind and therefore, 100% helpless—and put on the strangest contraption over my nose that blew laughing gas into my face. The doctor said that it might make me giggle and that my fingertips would start to tingle. But even after a few minutes, I still wasn’t feeling any difference. Maybe I wasn’t breathing it in right. All I heard was the constant beeping of my vitals—it would slow down and then I’d remember where I was and hear the beeps come closer and closer together. After a few more minutes, the doctor asked if I was feeling the gas and I said that I thought I was. I told him I felt like a blob. He laughed, but I still don’t get the joke.

I heard the doctor tell me that I’d feel a pinch in my hand as he inserted the IV anesthetic and even though it hurt much more than a pinch, I couldn’t even move or groan in pain. I had succumbed to the weight of the laughing gas.

I waited to fall asleep like everyone told me I would, but it never came. Suddenly, I heard the doctor and nurse hammering away inside my mouth. I didn’t feel a thing but I was pretty certain I should have been sound asleep instead of being able to open my eyes and watch them. I knew somewhere in the depths of my mind that they were operating inside my mouth, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I was in la la land and before I knew it, the nurse was telling me that it was all over. I couldn’t believe it went so fast. I only learned later that they had been working on me for half an hour.

As they took the mask off my face and pulled the IV out of my hand, I still couldn’t move. The nurse asked for my “mom’s” cell phone number and that’s when I told him she wasn’t my mom at all. I gave him Nina’s number but I’m still not sure how I managed to even navigate my cell phone to find it.

A few minutes later, Nina came in the room and the nurse told me to try and sit up. I did and just sat there for a few minutes. My mind was working but my body didn’t care to respond. Nina and the nurse sat there staring at me and I wondered what they were waiting for. The nurse then told me to try and stand on my own. I guess they had been waiting for me! I started to get up but my legs felt like jello. Nina wrapped an arm around me and helped me back to the car but I’m still not sure how I made it there without falling on my face.

Nina drove me back to her house and I collapsed on the couch and immediately fell asleep. Any feelings of hunger had completely disappeared and I just lay under a white fluffy blanket surrounded by her cats.

When I awoke several hours later, I felt a throbbing pain in my mouth and remembered what had happened. Nina helped me wash my lips, which I didn’t even know were crusted over with blood.

With the pain in my jaw increasing, I took a pain pill and realized that I had a gaping hole of hunger in my stomach that needed to be filled immediately. Nina made me some scrambled eggs, which were much more challenging to eat than I anticipated. Regardless, I wolfed them down and then had a sweet potato and then even later, macaroni and cheese.

My uncle had been in the neighborhood and came by to see me. It’s hard to explain, but even though I felt groggy from the anesthesia and a lot of discomfort in my mouth, I felt completely content surrounded by both Nina and my uncle. I felt like I was being taken care of for the first time in a long while. Sitting with the two people my father was closest to was such a relief and a truly relaxing experience. In a strange way, it felt like my dad was in the room with the three of us, teasing me about the swelling in my cheek. Maybe getting wisdom teeth out isn’t such a bad thing after all. Plus, you can drink all the smoothies you want!

Prelude

Today I’m giving my very first violin lesson. I figured that in honor of this exciting day, I’d write about how I came to play the violin in the first place. Enjoy! 

violin pictures  4

My musical life began when I was just a little girl visiting my grandparents on the weekend. My grandpa would come down the stairs singing his original song: “Goooood morning everybody, good morning. How’s my little Abigail, how are you today?” On and on it went. As a boy, my grandpa never had any musical training; he simply grew up to have a great appreciation for it. He made songs for all different things, including one about our dog, Cindy, “Retuuuuurn the Cindah! Return that pooch! We don’t need another mooch!”

Having served in the military, he loved band marches and some mornings, would play John Philip Sousa’s “Semper Fidelis” [1]while marching around the house waving a giant American flag while I trailed behind waving a small one of my own. (I’m not making this up. My aunt told me that my grandpa used to do this when she would bring a boy home that she liked.)

When my grandpa and I drove to church on Sunday mornings, we would sing pre-school favorites like “Old MacDonald,” “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” but my personal favorite was when he would sing “I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” while pushing me and my best friend at the time, Matthew (until he discovered I was a girl, or as legend has it) on a bench swing, back and forth.

On Sunday nights, my grandparents would drive me home and play the oldies (but goodies) that they listened to growing up. I learned the words to every song on the cassette. My personal favorite was The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”[2]. I even made a dance to it. Music was something I learned anyone could do, even without special training.

Although I seemed to have a natural ability for learning the words and tunes to the songs I heard, it wasn’t until I took music class in elementary school that I realized just how much I loved music. Mr. Lynch, my music teacher, had our class listen to classical pieces and taught us about all the different instruments in an orchestra. The best part of music class was when we began to play various instruments. I played the xylophone for the first time and in the third grade, I learned how to play the recorder. I missed the first day of reading music but somehow taught myself how to understand this new secret language that none of my family understood. I felt like a little spy.

By the fourth grade it was time to pick an instrument to play for the next year in middle school. Since I had experienced success with the xylophone and recorder, I was convinced I would be just as talented on all the more sophisticated instruments we were going to try.

The first instrument was the bongos. I immediately realized that this was not going to be as easy as I expected. How was it possible for anyone to use one hand to hit one drum with one rhythm and the other hand to hit another drum with another rhythm? I was not coordinated enough for this.

My faith hadn’t been completely shaken yet, though. I still had plenty of instruments to try, right?  But as I tried the next set of band instruments (the flute, the clarinet, and the trumpet) I quickly learned that my musical talent had ended with the recorder. If I needed my lips to play it, it wasn’t going to happen. How did anyone play these instruments without seriously getting lightheaded?

But just before my musical dreams shattered, we tried the violin. Finally, an instrument that didn’t require my mouth to make a sound. The wooden body fit under my chin perfectly. The bow felt natural in my hand. And within one class, Mr. Lynch asked me to help other students as they also tried it.

And so when I came home one day to my dad’s house for a weekly visit (I hadn’t yet moved in with him) and he asked that we carefully decide which instrument I would play next year so we could hand in the right paperwork I told him I had already made the decision and handed in my paperwork. It was obvious. I didn’t choose the violin. The violin chose me.

violinabbey

Cups (When I’m Gone) in American Sign Language

Hey guys! To see today’s video you must click the link. It’s one of my best friends translating the song “Cups (When I’m Gone) into American Sign Language. It’s amazing! Enjoy! 

https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10151729948209742

For those of you that would like to hear the original version of the song, here’s the video! 

Goodbye To My Writers in New York

group shot writers in ny1

It’s surreal that four weeks have passed and my writing program in New York has finished. It feels like I just moved everything in, still wondering if I’d be able to handle living in the city. I came into the program with no expectations. I tried not to picture what my room would look like, how much classwork I’d have, what my professors would be like, and I certainly didn’t think about making friends. I had such a hard time making friends at college during the fall and spring semesters that I hadn’t anticipated making any here. I thought I’d make a few acquaintances—a “hello” here and a “how was your weekend?” there—but nothing more than that. I came here because I wanted to become a better writer. I never expected that I’d meet some of the greatest people and make some of the best friends.

The first girl I met was at a luncheon right before our first class. She introduced herself as Ly (pronounced “Lee”) and we got to talking about the schools we went to and our writing. She came from Brooklyn and said she went to Columbia. She was Asian so this didn’t really surprise me—of course she was going to be intelligent. She said she’d only been writing for a couple years but that she’d been working on a memoir. I asked what section she was in for the program—“fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction?”—and to my surprise she said fiction.

By my third day in Creative Nonfiction, she had transferred into my class. Some might say it was fate or destiny, but this was the best decision she could have made. She sent our professor the chapters of her memoir. He said he couldn’t read it but for some reason, he must have gotten a free moment one night. He loved it so much he sent it to his agent. Can you tell where this story is going? Now, Ly’s getting ready to sign a contract for her memoir. Her dream is coming true.

At first, it was easy to feel jealous—hey, I’m a good writer too! Why aren’t I getting a book deal?— but I quickly realized that it’s just not my time yet. I’ve got to work on my own writing. I don’t have a memoir started. Just because my friend is on her way to being published doesn’t mean she’s taken my spot. Rather than be jealous or intimidated by her success, I’m inspired. Someone I know is going to have her dream come true. If she can do it, so can I.

The second girl I became close to looked like your All-American sweetheart on the first day of class. She introduced herself as Kelsey and was small with long light brown hair, a cute face, and a cute personality to match. I had noticed she wore an emergency tag bracelet on her right wrist but of course wasn’t going to ask what it was for.

One night after we had gone to a reading uptown, we went out to a diner. She called a friend and said something about “CHOP.” When she hung up, I asked her what “CHOP” was—stupidly thinking it was a motorcycle/tattoo parlor. She put her elbow on the table and shook her bracelet around. She told me she had dysautonomia. “What?” I asked her. I’d never even heard the word before. I wasn’t even sure it was English. She explained that she had gotten the mono virus her junior year of high school but didn’t know it so she continued doing all of her usual activities, namely being the coxswain of her crew. The coxswain steers the boat and coordinates and motivates the rowers. She gets to be the least fit of all the other members of her team because she doesn’t have to row—I loved this detail because it gave me hope that in a future life when I’m still unathletic maybe I’ll be a coxswain too—but she has to focus incredibly hard on each of her teammates to make sure that nothing goes wrong. She even told me that in her last race, her steering thingamajig broke and she threw half her body into the water to direct the boat. Her team made it to the finals.

She told me that dysautonomia is a nervous system disease that is unique for each person living with it. For her, she got it as the result of having mono. She explained that her blood pressure is low, making her heart work twice as hard as that of a healthy person. Her symptoms vary and can include fatigue and an irritable gut. Other people with the same disease can have symptoms such as fainting, as well as a slew of other broad symptoms like dizziness and headaches. Luckily, Kelsey is doing really well now. You would have never known she had a disability.

The coolest part about her story is that she’s going to try out for the U.S. national crew team. If she makes it, she hopes to go to the Olympics and bring awareness to her disease. Afterwards, she’d like to write a book about it. And when you all read her book you can say you read about her first here!

Another girl I became close to was the Colombian bombshell that I’ve mentioned before named Matilde. She has straight blonde hair with the face and body of a model. When I first met her, I was completely intimidated by her beauty. Her accent made her sound so sophisticated and I felt extremely awkward and dorky standing next to her. She even shared in class how her cousin had been studying film and decided to make a movie. She had asked Matilde if they could shoot the film on her farm and if Matilde would act in it. She agreed, thinking it would be a fun summer project. Turns out, it was much more than that. The film made it all the way to the Cannes Festival this year. *

But after class last week, I went with her and Ly to what Matilde calls her “second home” in New York: the Apple store. Her laptop kept breaking and she kept returning to the store hoping they would fix it, only to come back a few days later. We waited an hour until Ly finally had to leave. I stayed with Matilde, until she was guaranteed that she’d never have to return to the store again. (She had to go back two days later.) She asked if I would go with her to purchase some doorknobs and of course I agreed. But wait, really? Doorknobs? You don’t want to go to Saks Fifth Ave and buy mink coats?

We went to Anthropologie, where all the clothes are exactly what I’d love to wear if they were a third of the price. We went straight for the baskets of doorknobs and while sorting through them to find ones that matched the floor at her new house in Colombia I learned that both of her parents had passed away. For someone who was always so happy, I couldn’t believe she had been through such tragedy. I listened to her speak Spanish to her sister over the phone much faster than I will ever speak English and after purchasing more doorknobs than I have in my own house, we headed out into the street—which was now dark and raining—and into the Chelsea market for fruit. Matilde was curious about everything, asking me what apples were my favorites and if I had ever tried a lychee before—I hadn’t, so we shared one. She told me all the fruits that grew on her farm as a girl and when she found two miniature pineapples, instead of wondering what they tasted like first, she insisted we take a picture with them.

pineapple2

pineapple1

A few days later, I got a text from her that began, “Beautiful sweet Abbey” and ended with “Kisses!” Even though she returns to Colombia today, I hope we can stay in touch and one day meet up in New York after she too, has become a famous writer.

As I head home today, it’s bittersweet. I am looking forward to enjoying the rest of my summer without any homework but am sad that I am leaving these friends behind. It’s amazing how quickly I became attached to these people. Even the friends I haven’t written about here have helped to make this experience more than just becoming a better writer, they’ve made me a better person.

 writers in ny2

*Here’s the link to the trailer of the movie Matilde is in. It’s called “La Petite Tristesse” http://vimeo.com/65468746