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Time to slay your own dragons, ladies.

My first kiss was an unwanted one. I was seven years old when a boy named David pushed me up against the wall outside our apartment building. Forcing his mouth on mine, his breath, hot and fusty, something sickly sweet like apple juice and milk gone sour in his gut that made me squirm. I don’t remember seeing him as I ran with my brother and the other neighborhood kids through the empty lot next door, scrabbling over the toppled trees, slick with moss, tripping over the bramble of twigs and woodsy decay, but he must have been there, his knees as scratched and muddied as ours, before he caught up with me in the driveway that ran alongside and behind the apartment building. 
As usual I’d tagged along in my older brother’s shadow. Tag, hide and seek, cowboys and indians, the games kids used to play. Outdoors, up and down the streets, no watchful mommies on red alert. Ignoring our mothers’ warnings—don’t go into the woods, don’t go into the woods—we went into the woods, woods that in fact …

Made on Location [memoir]

On any other Sunday Id be digging shamelessly into a steaming stack of blueberry hotcakes, purple compote oozing out all over the place. The Pig ‘n Pancake in Astoria, Oregon were famous for them, and I usually couldnt wait to wade in. I didnt need—and didnt want—the calorie breakdown you cant escape from on menus these days to know they were pound packers, all buttery and crazy delicious, the kind of food I would normally eschew in favor of leaner fare like two eggs scrambled, cottage cheese on the side, one piece of rye toast. 

But the rules are different when youre on location. When youre on location, stressed to the max working as production coordinator on a big Warner Bros. movie like Free Willy, you (me) reward yourself (myself!) with a guilt-free weekend treat. Wed walked the half mile down the road from the Red Lion Inn and we’d walk the half mile back. A full mile. That had to count for something. But on that particular Sunday in the summer of ‘92, I sat there, letting blueberry pancakes go cold and gelatinous, feeling punky, my ravenous appetite replaced by an uneasy feeling, a queasy feeling and I wondered if I was hung over from the night before, when most of the crew had invaded the lounge at the hotel for Karaoke night. I’d watched my fiancé sing Stairway to Heaven—the long version—and run up at the end of the song with the studio teacher and Lori Petty—the actress who played the whale trainer—pretending to mob him, as he stood there, mike in hand reaching to the sky like he was a rockstar. We’d laughed until margaritas blew out our noses but I didn’t think I’d had all that much to drink.
I was right, I hadn’t had that much to drink. Or maybe I had but that wasn’t the source of that uneasy feeling, that queasy feeling. I was pregnant. 
Overnight, my diet went from carbolicious pancakes to protein-rich hard boiled eggs that the caterers made just for me. I kept them in a plastic tub filled with water in a fridge in the production office and ate them with almost as much gusto as Cool Hand Luke. Margaritas became a distant memory and I quit smoking just like that, cold turkey. My p.a.’s sent me a bouquet of flowers. The teamster captain stopped barking at me. My boss still watched every move I made, but she smiled a bit more often as she did so.

The full story of my pregnancy is complicated; a month in I woke up one morning with slight cramps. Going to the bathroom, I eliminated a small bloody mass into the bowl. It was the emotional pain, the horror that had me crying out to my husband. He rushed me back to bed and called in sick for both of us. When I called the local doctor who'd confirmed my pregnancy, she confirmed it sounded like a miscarriage. Was I in pain? No, I told her. She said I could come in for a DNC but if I was comfortable I could let nature take its course and I should see my own doctor when we got back to Los Angeles.
Miserable, but not in pain, my husband and I took a drive down the coast to Seaside. We took a walk, played arcade games, and tried to chase away the sadness.
The production staff sent more flowers, the teamster boss became downright kind, and my boss stopped being critical altogether.
By the time I returned home to Los Angeles, I was sad but resigned. We were okay. We could try again. My mother, seeing me for the first time in months, had other ideas.
"You still have a stomach!" she said. "I think you're still pregnant."
My doctor agreed, amazingly, miraculously, I was still pregnant! Whatever had happened back in that hotel bathroom, I was left with a baby in my belly. My baby. At age thirty-nine I had a baby boy, we had our little miracle. After a 22 hour labor and an emergency C-section, my boyo and I spent his first few days apart. He was up in ICU, a floor above me, and I lumbered down the hallway to the elevator to ride up to where they kept him plugged into an incubator. I had to scrub up like a surgeon just so I could breastfeed my beautiful little beany baby. My husband had to scrub up just so he could touch his tiny hands.

When we all came home a few days later, healthy and happy, I dressed him in the onesie I’d hand-painted with the words “Free Willy” arcing above my very rudimentary picture of a whale. Underneath I’d printed “Made on Location.” 

I still have that onesie, packed away in a box, along with the blue beany they gave him at the hospital and congratulatory cards, including those from my p.a.’s and the Free Willy crew when they first heard the news.

My beany baby turns 23 next week. Lean and lanky, at least a head taller than his father, he’s too big to be anyone’s beanie baby any more. Except mine. He’ll always be mine.


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