Melissa is six, and like most children she hates dentists. Like most mothers I hate them too. But because of that mothers' responsibility, I have no choice.
We are sitting in the dentist's waiting room awaiting our turn. Melissa has enough time to escalate her and my anxiety.
“Mommy” she says, “Can we please go home? I don't like being here”.
“We will go home, honey, as soon as we're done with your little tooth tickling, ok? I promise it won't take long. Would you like to do some painting? I have your color book here”.
What I would really like is to get out of here ASAP.
“Look at this beautiful picture just behind you, Melissa, why don't you draw it in your notebook?”
Melissa turned her head. This is a tranquilizing photograph of a wooden deck over serene water. The deck is ornamented with a tangle of tropical trees. It's somewhere far away from here, maybe in Hawaii, maybe in Florida. Or perhaps it's Vietnam? Trees like that are tempting, calling for you to get some shade, with a coconut-pineapple smoothie in your hand. Yes. I wish I could be on my way there.
“Mommy, can we please go there? It's so beautiful... Please, please, please... Can we go there after the dentist?”
“Well, this place is a bit far away, I think. It's like three months walking from our house, maybe more...” at least she's not concerned about the dentist now.
“Go ahead and draw it. We'll show it to Dad later in the evening”.
“Ok,” says Melissa and sits down to draw. We are next in line. Time flies when you're dreaming of Hawaii.
“Beautiful, right? I like looking at this picture during the day,” the receptionist intervened unexpectedly.
“Makes me feel like I'm on vacation in a tropical island and not here, in cold rainy Amsterdam. Wait till you see the treatment room, it's so peaceful”.
Peaceful? The dentist's room? She sounds like she's promoting a tropical bungalow in the Maldives.
“There was a whole renovation process here, you know” the receptionist keeps telling - looks like she's incredibly proud of that process. “Furniture was removed, the floor was replaced to fit the deck on the picture” and then I notice that the floor is indeed the same color as the wooden deck on the tropical photo. Nice. “The interior designer even turned the direction in which the treatment room door opens so that the staff will have more privacy in the kitchen in between appointments. It's so simple yet so considerate and practical for us”.
She could have told me more about the fantastic renovation process, but at that moment, the treatment room opened. Our turn had come.
“Hi, I’m Orna,” followed the friendly voice, “Orna Zuckerman. And you must be Melissa, right?” Doctor Orna seemed kind and sympathetic.
Melissa showed her the drawing with satisfaction.
“Look what I did while we were waiting outside. Mommy says that after the dentist we can go there”.
“Oh, that's beautiful! It looks like our front reception wall!” nice of her to recognize.
“Why don't you climb up on to the chair, Melissa, and see what's there above your head?”
Melissa climbed on the chair as if it were a playground and made herself comfortable. “Mommy look! It's sky and trees, it's not like in other dentists!” The ceiling was adorned with blue sky and green palm leaves. Outside the clinic, stormy Dutch winter prevailed while here at the dentist, of all places, we were facing summer.
Doctor Orna was thoughtful and gentle, and Melissa's filling was short and not painful. She was staring at the ceiling during the whole session, imagining shapes on the clouds and counting the palm-tree leaves.
“Your daughter is adorable” said Dr. Orna on our way out. “And good care of her teeth! Well done!” and she winked. Mother's responsibility pays off, eventually.
When we got home later that evening and Melissa went to sleep, I googled that picture. Couldn't find the original, but something very similar caught my eye – Bora Bora, in South Pacific. Reservation made.
The next morning, I told Melissa that I had a surprise for her.
“Do you know where we are going on vacation next summer? One guess, no hints!”
“To that beach with the green trees and blue sky we saw at the dentist's?!”
“Yes! I’m already looking forward to it!”
Mother's responsibility pays off, and so does that clinic's renovation process. I should thank the interior designer’s work for this.