Because it is in Brentwood, our pediatrician’s office is in a building with valet parking only. On Friday, as I hefted my whimpering baby out of the car, I was quite happy to have someone else park the damned thing.
“I can squeeze you in at 10:45,” the receptionist told me.
“Sounds good. I’ll wait right here in case someone cancels in the meantime.” The receptionists at UCLA Brentwood are perhaps the finest in their field. These ladies are, for some reason, always patient, pleasant, and efficient, which is no small feat for women who spend all day talking to insurance companies and irate patients. They remember who I am every time I call or show up, although I guess they hear from me pretty frequently, what with one child or another. They took one look at me and my baby and did what had to be done: they told a nurse of our plight. I tell you all of this so that you know, should you ever have occasion to deal with these people, you had best mind your manners or I’ll be kicking your ass up and down the mean streets of Brentwood.
Because the staff in the office is so fantastic, they got us into a room. “In case the doctor gets here before any scheduled patients, so you are ready to see her,” said the nurse. As it happens, that is precisely how things worked out. Which is how, fifteen minutes later, Dr. Garvey was holding a stethoscope to Lilah’s chest and then telling me it sounded like pneumonia.
That was when our day started to get interesting.
First of all, I learned that our doctors’ office has an x-ray machine. Second, I learned that one diagnoses pneumonia via x-ray. Third, I learned that the best way to x-ray a baby’s chest is for her mother to hold her arms in the air while her tushie rests on a stool. Before we get to the part when I learned Lilah had pneumonia, there is the moment when I stood in the hallway and saw my little girl’s lung x-ray hanging on the viewing screen.
At that moment, I had a momentary memory of seeing a chest x-ray once before, almost three decades ago. I was in my father’s house, and somehow I came upon a large envelope. I have no recollection of how I found it or what I asked, whether it was shown to me or whether I stumbled upon it. But, somehow, I was looking at an x-ray of a very sick set of lungs, and my father was telling me that those were the pictures taken of my mother’s chest while she was being diagnosed with the lung cancer that had already spread around her body.
Yes, despite the fact that my father neglected to keep the home movies my mother made for her children before she died, he did manage to stow away the x-rays of her diseased lungs for our viewing pleasure. He’s kind of a sentimental guy. It was creepy, remembering her x-rays while looking at my daughter’s. But, because I am a sucker for things like metaphor and allusion, I immediately started to wonder what was poetic about the moment.
Not much, of course. In this case, it simply was symmetry without meaning.