essay, Memoir

It was a totally unorganized attempt at baby-making — just a creative round-up of skin and bones and teeth and hair and other pieces that typically comprise a human being, all bundled together in a grapefruit-sized package I had been carrying around with me for who knows how long. This jumble is what happens when you try to put together a new person on your own without the organizing benefit of sperm.

They call this solo baby-making attempt a “dermoid cyst,” a mere cyst, as if the ultimate creative effort involved in striving to make a brand-new human life was on par with any other “thin-walled cavity of abnormal character containing fluid.” I call “dermoid cyst” a poor show of medical terminology imagination, demonstrating insulting disregard for the heroic,  albeit unconscious, ambition of a body to do something magnificent. I think they used to do a better job of coming up with labels that actually had a pulse. Ailment names that had color and occasionally even a certain poetry to them — barrel fever for alcoholism, burning mouth syndrome for a mouth that feels like it’s burning. But dermoid cyst? That’s not even trying. A jumble baby rates at least “messy conception.”

I made this, my first DIY baby when I was 20. After getting past the traumatizing race to get this creation delivered before it ruptured, I came to regard my grapefruit as one of my most creative works. What a marvel — who knew my body wanted to do this and decided to just go for it on its own? And while I was told this would never happen again — especially now that I was down to one ovary — the second came along a decade later, which happened to be 3 years after Ellen was born, as we were waffling back and forth on whether there was going to be a 3rd child. And then my body stepped in.

Down to one last salvaged scrap of an aging ovary left, this second one was the end of the solo-baby-making business for me, but I still carried the fact of exuberant bodily over-performance in my lineage. I wasn’t the first to do something amazing. Around the time I was 4, it was discovered that my mother had 3 kitties in her tummy! What could be more marvelous! Even when I came to understand that these were kidneys, I thought it still quite exceptional. What’s more, the older I got, I began to notice how frequently I took a measure of comfort in that extra kidney, privately calling first dibs.

These secrets we carry within…what a never ending marvel. I’ve always thought it so strange that we have this totally separate-seeming, unknown life going on inside us. Setting aside grand operations like back-end baby-making, we often don’t even know what we think or how we feel. How could that be? If we’re not experts on anything else, shouldn’t we at least be the experts of ourselves? And yet we will most likely have no idea of these unknown worlds unless something brings them to light. In fact, how many of our secrets will we never even come to know?

But just this year, I got to meet another of my marvels, my latest bodily exuberance revealed during a colonoscopy. It turns out I have an extra-long colon! Enough additional yardage for a few more laps across the belly field. This time, however, the namers have done a bang-up job:

Tortuous colon.

Like tortured. And right in the gut. Right where we feel things. Intuit things. Right where we literally take things in from the outside world and begin the process of assimilating the nutrition, the poison, all the stuff upon which we feed.

Tortuous colon. Now that is downright poetry. And having a bunch of extra colon plays right into my personal mythology of being too much — too sensitive, too excessive, too emotional, too over-the-top — all things that have embarrassed if not downright mortified me over the decades. But being excessive in my physical expressions….this seems honorable in a singularly high performing/extra-credit sort of way. Look at how above-and-beyond my body goes!

I love this version of who I am, so I go out of my way to force meaning from this, my exuberant body, and how this overflow represents the embodiment of a kind of exceptional, dare I say appointed creativity, the idea of which pleases me no end.

So I call Ellen up to tell her about my tortuous colon, how extra long it is and how it reinforces everything I’ve always felt, how it explains so much.

“And it just proves how full of creativity I am!” I crow.

“Or full of shit,” Ellen says, laughing her head off.

“Oh, without a doubt,” I happily agree. “That, too.”






5 thoughts on “Extra”

  1. Sharon says:

    Love this one! All the connections between biology and sensitivity, exuberance and creativity – I definitely buy in.


    • Thanks! There’s something going on, enough for an association, anyway. An association I happen to be fond of… 🙂


  2. Lynn says:

    Ha ha ha ha! Love this piece! I know you’re going to ask me WHY do I love it, so I’m just gonna say ” ‘Cause it made me laugh about a not so funny something, ” which is about the only reason I’m still sane!


  3. Pingback: A silly lunch | Be cool.

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