A Happy Place

Old Orchard Beach Pier

When you have an operation they don’t knock you out, roll you into the operating room, do the deed and roll you back out again. Operations, I’ve had the pleasure 4 times in the past two years. Nope, it’s not that easy, not in my experience anyway.  I walked into a freezing cold room with bright lights wearing a shower cap on my head, blue socks with grip treads, a thin gown tied in the back and a set of nerves so jangled my eyes wanted to pop from my head. My mother said to me she hated the sound of the tools clinking in the background as she drifted off to sleep on the table. I always listen for them as the sound reminds me of her. Strangely enough, it gives me comfort.

Now you’re probable sitting there saying, “Mae, I’m looking at a beautiful pier and your talking about operations. What gives?”

I’ll get to it.

My first operation in memory was a lumpectomy. I hadn’t been in a hospital since I was 4 and this time I knew how serious the situation was. My stomach, empty since the night before, was beyond grumbling as it was already nearing the afternoon when I walked into the operating room. I was exhausted. It was Vita who had warned me that the operating table was a bit like a big metal crucifix. Her operation was just two years prior and she told me details to soften the experience. When I walked in I knew exactly what she meant. Shaped perfectly to access the lymph nodes and breast were metal wings running perpendicular to the operating table. It visually looked just like a cross. The Catholic schoolgirl in me shuddered while the woman I had become forged ahead. I stepped up to the table and climbed in. Tools clinking in the background I lay down staring up to the lights. The part my torso and legs were to lie on had heated blankets and dare I say once I jumped on it, the word cozy comes to mind. It reminded me of something you’d find in a spa. That comparison is brief as all else was far from any spa experience. Still, it was a surprise to find that little pleasure.

The anesthesiologist came in all bundled in a gown. She is a tiny woman and the gown wraps around like an ill-fitting sari. I met her earlier and it is her eyes I recognize. “Now Mae,” she says softly, “just go to your happy place.” I had mentally prepared to count backwards all morning but she threw in the happy place idea and I was stumped. Happy Place? With all that I’d been through a happy place was the furthest thing from my mind and the hardest place to access. My mother was dying and I had cancer. Happy Place? My mind skidded and twisted rushing from one thought to the next as I lay on the table. Happy Place? I forgot that one even existed.

Eventually I thought of this moment and you can read about it later. I want to now tell you about the pier.

Frieda and I were driving all day looking for photographs to take. We knew the magic hour was fast approaching. Sunset.  It’s the moment when the light of the day is perfect for photography.  We wanted to settle into a beautiful place to capture the light. We didn’t know that much about Maine and on this day followed Route 9 up the shore. So far, the towns we drove through weren’t spectacular. The road sign said Old Orchard Beach and we turned into the town knowing nothing about it. We agreed to just look at the shore and hoped there was something there of interest. I pulled into a parking lot behind a building next to the beach. When I walked around the corner of the building I finally saw what would take my breath away that afternoon. The pier at low tied. It was all that I could have wanted. Magic and wonderment enveloped me. My cameras snapped and whirred as I measured light and snapped some more. The setting autumn sun warmed my head, the gulls called out above and the water lapped the shore in the distance. I walked beside it, under it and around it. I was in heaven and if an anesthesiologist should ever tell me again to go to my happy place, I’ll be here by the pier discovering it all over again.

This entry was posted in Cancer, Memories, Photography, Vita and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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