It all started with a dirty doodle.
“Ginger, could you come into my office?” the director of the pregnancy center smiled. She was anything but nun-like, with red on her fingernails and a pulled back fro.
“Sure,” I smiled. I followed into a musty cubby hole that was the size of a confession booth. A large wooden cross hung behind her desk, the eyes of Christ gazing out the window at Chicago’s new silver bean.
She was careful not to chip her manicure as she shut the door.“You’ve been in volunteer training for several weeks now.”
“Yep. And I’ve learned a lot,” I beamed. I pointed to the babies lined up on her desk like Russian nesting dolls. “I memorized all the stages. A ten week old baby is about the size of your acrylic thumbnail.”
“We prefer that you say small strawberry.”
Oh.” I continued listing the training sessions I had attended over the past several months. “Then on Saturdays, there were required classes at St. Mary’s. Last week, I shadowed the receptionist on how to answer the phone. Plus, I mastered how to properly dispose of a pee-stick.
The director wasn’t impressed. She adjusted the small pin on her lapel of two tiny footprints. “Well, I’m interested in what you did yesterday.”
“Yesterday?” I couldn’t understand her probing. I flipped through the filing cabinet of my brain. “I watched the stack of videos you recommended.”
“Oh yes, the videos.”
Pregnancy Center training videos aren’t something I recommend viewing at all, especially after lunch. Even though I knew the ins and outs of female anatomy (thanks to illustrations on the side of tampon boxes), I really wasn’t clear on where a pregnancy would be terminated. So I grabbed a legal pad and started drawing as the on-camera doctor explained the plumbing: two ovaries and a birth canal. Then, I colored a circle where a baby would exit or an instrument would enter.
The doodle helped a lot. I put in the trash… or at least I thought.
The director put a crumbled piece of paper on her desk.
“Can you explain why you were drawing a penis?”
I looked at my doodle. And just like the skull that turns into a young woman admiring herself in a mirror, my diagram of female anatomy transformed into a big schlong.
I laughed. “It’s not a wiener, it’s a doodle of what the video was talking about.” I pointed to my artwork, “The eggs drop out here, the baby travels down here, and the head pops out here.”
The director’s eyes were bulging, “No, it’s a penis, of a black man.”
She grabbed the paper from my hands and whispered. “These are the two testicles, this is shaft and this is where you darkened in the head.”
She wasn’t smiling. She wasn’t listening. She was nuts. My helpful drawing was misconstrued as doodle porn. The director stood up and pointed to the door.
“We no longer want you volunteering at the center.”
My jaw dropped and I’m pretty sure that Jesus’s did too, as he hung behind her desk.
I shoved the doodle in my bag and left the pregnancy center feeling judged, thinking of all of the time and energy I poured into a goody-two-shoes volunteer position.I thought of all of the girls who walked through those doors, scared and alone, and if they felt judged, too.
I kept on walking against the flow of tourists on Michigan Avenue.I whipped out my phone and called my better half.
“Honey, you’re not going to believe this.”
When I got home, my husband had my favorite snack waiting: homemade butter cream frosting. My husband ripped open a sleeve of saltines and dipped one into the bowl. He always gave me the first bite.
The sweetness overwhelmed my mouth as I unfolded the doodle.
He took one look. “It does look like a wiener.”
As I blubbered about being fired from a volunteer position, my husband listened and wiped frosting from my face, “No good deed goes unpunished.” He handed me another frosting sandwich. “Now do you want to hear about my day?”
“Sure,” I sniffled.
“One of my students had a knife in his backpack.”
“You teach first grade, dear.”
Our conversation was put on pause thanks to a car alarm. “Well, maybe it’s time for a new adventure.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s sell our stuff and move somewhere weird,” I had a hard time taking my husband seriously when his goatee was spackled with butter-cream. “Germany, Singapore, Bangkok,any country that doesn’t end with “ia””.
He pulled a brochure out of his messenger bag. “There’s a new place not that far from here were you can get trained to be an English teacher.”
I grabbed the shiny brochure from his hands, “TEFL certification. Your gateway to the world.”
“Just don’t doodle in class.”
After we came down from our sugar high, the plan still sounded good. A few months later, I was certified to teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) which is different than teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I would no longer be working with irate clients and drunk account executives. I wouldn’t be doing pro-bono work for organizations that labeled me a dirty doodler. I would be doing something that would challenge me creatively, spiritually and emotionally along with bring my marriage to its breaking point.
So that was the boot that kicked the bucket that started our Rube Goldberg process of moving to China.