The other day I tried to think of a good memory from 2013 and couldn’t really think of anything.
Of course Ryan makes me happy in small ways every single day. He makes me laugh. He keeps things light. When something really bad happens he lets himself feel sad for a day or two, but then he moves on, always looking to the bright side of life. He is like Zen and the Art of Home Maintenance. See, I knew I was onto something when I married the maintenance man.
Still, 2013 was mostly demarcated by fertility treatments: frequent trips to Denver; drug-therapy cycles that meant I had to give up caffeine, alcohol, ibuprofen and hot tubs; four surgical procedures; and an acute awareness of calendar days as the waiting game sucked any hope of spontaneity out of our lives. I crawled on my hands and knees through mud and snow and hot lava to climb this mountain in a last-ditch effort to try to have a kid, whatever that means for a 43-year-old. Hey, rich fertility-doctor man, I could have told you it was a reach.
Let’s just say we could have bought a really nice car for all the money we spent on sci-fi baby making, and we didn’t even get a free T-shirt (or a baby).
July 27 was also memorable. That was the day my dad got hit by a truck on his road bike and spent two weeks in the hospital with life-threatening injuries. Needless to say that took my mind off our baby troubles, but not in a good way. (He’s alive and well and focused on his skate-skiing career.)
But you guys know all that already.
There is one good thing I can think of: getting Gertie.
The actual process of getting Gertie wasn’t much fun. We had to drive 91/2 to western Kansas, where feed lots fill the air with the stench of death and chemicals. As soon as we got into the plains, it was long and flat and empty. When night fell, it rained so hard you couldn’t see where the black sky met the road. It felt like a pilgrimage.
But Gertie slept peacefully the whole way home. She was right from the start. It’s like she knew she belonged with us.
Speaking of Gertie, yesterday I ran into a friend at yoga I hadn’t seen in a while.
“Did I hear you were pregnant?” she asked, trying to sneak a peek at my belly without me noticing.
“No, that didn’t work out,” I said, trying to feign a casual tone.
“Oh, where did I hear that? I must have read something in your column.”
I knew the column she was thinking of. The headline, which was written by the editors, read, “The price of pregnancy.” I agree it was misleading, but once it’s in print there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Yeah, there was a headline that was confusing. You have to actually read the column.”
She laughed awkwardly.
“You should get a dog,” she said. “My friend who went through the same thing got a puppy, and it really helped a lot.”
“I did get a dog,” I said, trying not to sound too defensive. “She’s awesome.”
I love that little dog so much it’s embarrassing. Yes, she sleeps with us. At some point in the night, she gets cold and wants to get under the covers. She’ll burrow in and then curl up against my belly with her little head on my shoulder.
I’ve never been very good at cuddling. I always want to move around too much, and plus, I love sleeping on my stomach, which doesn’t bode well for spooning. But with that damn little dog I can fall asleep with my arms around her and wake up the same way, her little snoring in my ear.
If you would have told me a year ago that I’d get a pug puppy and name her Gertrude, I never would have believed you. But the best things in life always take you by surprise, and that’s the whole point.
Plus, I’m pretty sure the worst is behind us as I sit by the fire in our cozy A-frame and soak in the scene. We got a wood-burning stove, and Ryan is totally obsessed with it. He named it Bernerd and talks to it every day. After he lit the first fire, he stood back proudly and declared, “Now I never have to leave this house ever again. My life is perfect.”
Gertie parades around the living room in her new, pink-camo jacket, and George noisily chomps on his bone as Ryan flips channels back and forth between the marathon of “A Christmas Story” on TBS and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.” I have to clean the kitchen after another failed attempt at baking (forgot to buy baking soda, oops) and left a tornado of flour and batter-caked bowls and utensils in my wake.
We decorated our holiday plant (a little challenging because it’s a tropical plant with like two stalks and two leaves) and strung these really cool snowflake lights up the spiral staircase (I love that thing — it just screams “groovy”). We wrapped all our gifts in the paper left over from our wedding reception decor, and it’s pink and yellow with funky flowers all over it and not very Christmasy, but what the hell. It actually inspired me to do a Princess-themed tree with pink decorations next year. We drank beer and danced around the living room to the workout playlist on my iPhone, which has cheesy hip-hop tunes, and went naked in the hot tub.
Maybe 2013 didn’t turn out to be our lucky year after all. But I’m done with the idea of luck. Next year, I’m hoping to just let life happen.
The Princess still has to send her holiday cards. Send your cheer to firstname.lastname@example.org.