by Laura Gardner
I once had a doctor tell me that I had one hell of a big uterus. Coming from an OB/GYN I thought at first it was some sort of compliment. I was too caught up in the moment of birthing my ten and a half pound baby boy to understand that the comment was merely a clinical observation. Needless to say, in my state of birthing elation, I thanked the doctor like I’d thank someone who was complimenting my hair. It took me by surprise. Where I came from, you didn’t say words like uterus out loud. This open discussion about reproduction was barely nine months in the making and still felt new.
I was born at the tail end of the “baby boomer” generation and my parents were imprinted with the attitudes of their parents in the 1930s and 40s. So I was taught that you just didn’t say words like uterus or sex in conversation. Nevertheless, I eventually came to understand that my uterus was huge for the size of my body—as was my mother’s—not that I knew. I only found out years after the fact when my mother accidentally let it slip that she’d had a hysterectomy. A few questions later, I learned that her uterus was so large it had flopped over inside her and had to be removed. She was too embarrassed to tell anyone.
In the 1970s I was in middle school and later, high school. Even though my mother was a dog breeder, the actual breeding could not be discussed. All terms associated with male or female genitalia or sex were replaced with nonsense words. I remember my siblings and I being shooed away when Butch and Daisy, the breeding Basset hounds, started doing their thing. My mother would run around the house in a sort of pandemonium blurting out things about Butch’s “whaatsit” and Daisy’s “rosebud.”
“You just go outside,” she’d say to me when I stood there gaping at Butch’s glistening, pink “whaatsit” dragging across the linoleum floor. I scurried outside, but naturally, I went straight to the open laundry room window and crouched in the grass listening. A bedlam of yelping and barking along with my mother’s squeals sent my heart thumping hard enough that I had to brace myself. I knew my mother was in there trying to help Butch get his “whaatsit” into Daisy’s “rosebud”, but the whole thing sounded horribly severe, and I could only imagine that my mother was forcing the poor dogs to do something terrible in there. Hours later, I’d steal back into the house hoping to swipe a couple of Oreos only to find Butch and Daisy sprawled out and panting with exhaustion. All I had to do was reach out to pet one of them and my mother would snap, “You just leave them alone and get back outside!” It was an all-day affair. One time Butch’s “whaatsit” gruesomely appeared after supper while my father was watching TV. It slogged across the carpet collecting wood slivers and bark from the firewood, which stuck to it. When Butch began to yelp, my father lurched from his recliner flailing and yelling.
“Get out of here! Get out of here!” And he opened the sliding glass door and booted the dog outside onto the icy back step. When Butch’s “whaatsit” hit the ice his yelping grew exponentially. I ran upstairs.
A few years later, my father brought home a live turkey from the gun club as a pet. We called him J.R. as in Who shot J.R.? from the popular 1978 TV show Dallas. I was in high school by then and in the summer I’d bring a big pillow and a towel outside and lay in the sun in my red-striped bikini. Turkeys are attracted to bright colors and before I knew it, my body was in the iron clutches of a humping turkey. To keep J.R. away from me, I had to lead him away by circling around the house waving my towel or my big pillow like a bullfighter’s cape and then leave it on the ground for J.R. to enjoy while I ran away. I hated that turkey and swore at it and called it names. My mother would laugh and tell me he just wanted to leave me a “ten cent spot” because he loved me—whatever that meant. I was left to figure that out on my own, but I was pretty sure I knew what she meant, because I had a cat who left sticky spots on my bed.
Friends provided a more human perspective on the matter. I only knew a few girls who had had sex, and one of them was Sue. Sue was boy crazy beyond control, but I learned a lot from her. She was like a wild carnival ride whirling through life in her flashy, red nails and spidery thick eye makeup. She was having sex before I could say the names of the body parts out loud. One day I asked her what it was like.
“It’s like trying to shove a Snickers bar up your nose,” she answered. No wonder Butch and Daisy yelped like that, I thought.
My parents never did have the talk with me—you know, the sex talk that all kids dread. Besides the animals and Sue, there was only that changing body movie we all had to watch in the darkened fifth grade cafeteria and Mrs. Eighth Grade English Teacher’s mortifying description of love-making during a lesson on writing using the senses. But, I guess there are some things you come to know naturally. Gradually, I learned it all through experience, and when my first baby was born a new perspective was also born. I had the privilege of having a wondrous overlarge, miracle-producing uterus, and it deserved to be identified by its real name.
Category: SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student