Ancient History

Follow Me?



I was never the child with fingers splayed, the tips topped with ten black olives borrowed from a Thanksgiving relish tray. The idea of putting olives on my fingers nauseated me. I left it to my siblings and cousins to play with the cursed fruit as appetizer turned holiday-doldrum diversion. Bacon-flavored cheese squeezed out of a tube and onto a cracker eaten in front of the TV? More my style.

I don’t like olives. They are horribly bitter little tongue-thrashers. The smell of nail polish remover is how an olive tastes to me.

I’ve wondered if my automatic recoil at the taste is a protective mechanism. Maybe I have an allergy or a senstivity. I don’t plan to find out.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about bitterness and how easy it takes root when dreams die or we are thwarted. Sometimes I feel it circling me, regarding me, wondering about me. Should bitterness bother?

Today, I had my post-op follow up appointment with my doctor. I didn’t want to go, so for the past three weeks I kept forgetting to make my appointment. Oops, another day gone. Oops, another. Oops, the weekend. Oops. Yesterday, I realized I needed to put it behind me, so I called. I was hoping the receptionist would tell me I’d have to wait a few weeks. But there was an opening this afternoon, would I like it? I guess. I hung up the phone. I didn’t want to go. I was full of dread. But I didn’t know why.

Then I remembered. There would be olives.

I found my first olive when I saw the building. I put it on my left pinky finger.

I saw my second olive when I stepped out onto the fourth floor. I put it on my right pinky.

My next olive was the ridiculously long hallway, past the kids’ dentist, down, down, down. Last door on the right, add an olive.

I signed in, so now my ring finger on my left hand had a little black cap.

When I looked around the waiting room, I noticed I was by myself. I realized I could take an olive off, so I did with much relief.

But there, on the table, was a “Pregnancy” magazine. The background was a vibrant shade of purple and the blooming, glowing model was wearing off-white. She was happy. Normally, I would have picked it up. The olive, back on. Pre-stretched to fit.

By the time my appointment was over, nearly all my fingers were covered. Except one.

On the elevator ride on the way down, I rode with a pregnant woman. She looked like she was about 7 months. Black shirt. My set was suddenly complete.

It’s hard to type with these olives on my fingers.

7 comments to Olives

  • Gem

    I know those olives well. When we went for my final hormone check, there was a lady in the waiting room telling her husband that the midwife didn’t want her to go home, because she was that close to giving birth. I was so happy for her, and so sad for me. I pray this bitterness will fade for you.

  • Nothing to give but more ((HUGS)) Gretchen.

    I like olives…for me it would have to be brussel sprouts. I’m dodging the flying brussel sprouts as we head into September…a breather for October…then again in November.

    *heavy sigh*

  • I don’t like olives either. I used to, but my hubby is addicted to them, and now so are all my kids. And for some reason it was just too much and I can’t tolerate them!

    This post is by far one of your finest pieces, in my humble opinion. But I often think that is true with every last post I read of yours…


  • I added an olive the other day when a friend announced her twin pregnancy. I’m coming to terms with it being “ok” that I feel sad about it. Love you G. You’re most definitely not alone. And neither am I. And somehow that makes it just a little bit better. Not ok, but better.

  • ((Oh Gretchen)). I just love the way you write. You even share the olive type moments. Thank you for being so real.

  • I empathize with the metaphor, even though I love olives and used to get a whole can of them in my Christmas stocking (will you still be my friend?) I am so sorry for the bitter taste.

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