A vacation to Palm Springs

In the weeks rolling up to the Thanksgiving break this year, my stomach lurched from time to time with excitement and apprehension. Our vacation would definitely happen, right? We were looking for this kind of a break for so long! For our family of four, it would be the first post-pandemic vacation that involved a plane ride, a resort, a swimming pool, warm weather in November, and a good mix of tourist attractions and relaxation. Palm Springs ticked all our checkboxes.

We reached Los Angeles by flight in the afternoon and drove to our destination in slow-moving traffic while night fell. A bright moon rose over the hills surrounding the freeway as we passed a windmill farm that stretched for miles, the towering wind turbines and their blinking red lights resembling alien structures on an unknown planet.

The resort, situated in Indian Wells (famous for the tennis tournament), was decked up with holiday decorations and boasted an array of amenities like swimming pools, ping-pong and foosball tables, a spa, tennis courts, two restaurants, and a cafe. In the morning, we opened our patio door to a view of a pond around the hotel buildings, palm trees around it and beyond, a mountain range, the sky above it all turning a peachy orange from the rising sun.

“I’ve never seen so many Palm Trees in my life before,” I said as we drove to the Plam Springs Downtown area. 

We passed houses with clean lines and rectangular shapes, known for their mid-century modern architecture. After lunch and date-flavored ice cream (we didn’t drink the popular Date Shake though, maybe next time!), we stopped by to admire the quirky outdoor installations of a giant Marylin Monroe statue and sculptures of huge faceless crawling babies outside the art museum in the city center.

I would have been disappointed if we didn’t visit the iconic Joshua Tree National Park. So we drove through sweeping desert vistas filled with countless Joshua trees bordered by mountains. In between this landscape were heaps of rocks caused by volcanic activity millions of years ago. They seemed to be placed there by a giant child who had finished playing with pebbles and gathered them in one place before running off to play with other ones that also got piled up. We stopped at a vista point while the sun began its descent, creating sharp silhouettes of trees and rocks. Time seemed to stand still, a moment that was a mere blink of an eye in this planet’s lifetime.

The next day an ariel cable car took us to the top of San Jacinto mountain peak, the rotating tramway offering spectacular views of the surrounding desert valley as we rode up to an environment in stark contrast to the one below. A person can enjoy a warm day in the swimming pool in the plains at the bottom of the mountains while high up on the peak, he or she would be freezing cold at a temperature that is 30-40 degrees lower! The area down below is arid while at the top lies an Alpine forest with plenty of wildlife!

The final day of our vacation was devoted to the swimming pool where we had a blast. There was also a craft and playroom for children in which an expert with a real hawk gave a talk on falconry. I squeezed in some time for a spa massage, where my talkative self was unable to resist spending most of the appointment chatting with the equally chatty masseuse as she worked on my tired child-rearing muscles. The day ended at one of the resort’s restaurants with live music playing in the background. 

Of course, being a family with two young kids, everything was not pleasant all the time but this vacation felt special for a couple of reasons. Our 17-month-old son took his first airplane ride, experienced his first hotel stay, and took his first dip in a swimming pool (not that he’ll remember any of it!) Overall, the trip was a memorable getaway from our mundane and busy lives and it gave us an opportunity to spend quality time with each other. 

“I don’t want to go back,” said our six-year-old daughter when it was time to leave. “Let’s come here again during the December holidays.” 

Yes, this vacation was a good one.

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My microfiction story “Pandemic-Born” in Friday Flash Fiction

There, I did it. I, too, wrote fiction related to the Coronavirus Pandemic and it was published in Friday Flash Fiction: https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/pandemic-born-by-deepti-nalavade-mahule

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My microfiction story “Scarecrow” in Friday Flash Fiction

My microfiction piece was published in Friday Flash Fiction: https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/scarecrow-by-deepti-nalavade-mahule

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July 4, last year

With the coronavirus pandemic raging on through summer 2020, official July 4 fireworks events were cancelled to avoid public gatherings. On the evening of July 4, my husband, daughter and I (heavily pregnant with my second-born son) decided to drive around in the car to check out fireworks that people were lighting up on their own. We set off as the horizon darkened and a full moon came up to rule the sky.

My daughter chatted continuously, the words tumbling over each other, rarely-heard exclamations falling fast from her lips. Fireworks began to explode above treetops and the buildings surrounding the freeway. People with masks stood (at least six-feet) apart on flyovers, watching them. My husband, daughter and I joined them as more flashes and booms filled the night sky. My daughter jumped and hooted while my heart did a little dance of its own.

Driving back home, we turned into a street where many fireworks were going off. To our delight, the people who had been lighting them set off a new round. Rockets zoomed upward in rapid succession and burst into a variety of sparkling colors and patterns. The entire display lasted for about two minutes, right above our heads as if it were our own private show.

It was the middle of 2020 and my heart went out to all those who were suffering. At the same time, I was grateful for all the little joys, including our impromptu family outing. We’d left the house to catch a few glimpses of sparkles in the sky here and there, only to be treated to magnificent firework showers right in front of our eyes.

Video of fireworks from July 4, last year:

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My microfiction story “A Question” in Friday Flash Fiction

My microfiction piece was published in Friday Flash Fiction: https://www.fridayflashfiction.com/100-word-stories/a-question-by-deepti-nalavade-mahule

I liked reading the comments on it about what readers thought of the story and how they interpreted it!

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“Candle in the Wind” published in The Sunlight Press

My flash fiction titled “Candle in the Wind” has been published in The Sunlight Press, a digital literary journal that publishes stories with characters who traverse life’s dark paths with hope and light. Read the piece here: https://www.thesunlightpress.com/2021/03/25/candle-in-the-wind/

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My second childbirth story

About five years ago, I wrote about and shared my first childbirth experience. You can check it out here. The years flew by and in front of me now stands a girl in pigtails and pink glasses, who talks non-stop. To absorb all of her endless talk, my husband and I decided to add another pair of ears to our family. Also influencing our decision was the fact that we have one sibling each and our lives would be incomplete were it not for them. 

A second child might be a few years of extra hard work for parents but a lifetime of companionship for their children. With this reasoning in mind, I braced myself for the additional responsibility, the following words from a Coldplay song (the context was different, but still) ringing in my ears:

Nobody said it was easy

No one ever said it would be so hard

I’m going back to the start

Cue the guitar …

Alright then, here’s an account of how our Baby Number Two made an entry into this world during an unforgettable year, with the Covid-19 pandemic changing how things were normally done. Everyone in the hospital (except me, especially during labor) wore face masks all the time. Only one person could accompany me, no visitors were allowed and we were sent home with the baby after spending just one night at the hospital after the baby was born. I was filled with gratitude for all healthcare helpers my OB/Gyn, the staff at her office and at medical centers like labs and the nurses in labor and delivery at the hospital, who continued to provide care to us during these unprecedented times.

We were expecting a boy and prepared for his arrival in much the same way as we’d done for his older sister except that this time it was like traveling down a familiar road, but with much of the landscape around it having changed!

Like last time, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my pregnancy and was going to be induced earlier than my estimated due date. So on the appointed day we got myself admitted to the hospital. Last time, full dilation had taken a long time (around 36 hours) and we came in half-prepared for a long wait and half-hoping everything to speed up since the method of induction was different (an oral pill given to me was supposed to take effect faster) and also because it was my second pregnancy. 

On arrival,  I was poked in preparation for the IV to go in and fitted with two abdominal belts tracking the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. After swallowing the pill, I tried to help move things along by walking back and forth and bouncing on the birthing ball. I was so enthusiastic about it that the nurse had to come in to check why the baby seemed to be jumping about inside me!

After that I rested, read my library book of Hemingway’s short stories, ate lunch and was given the second dose of the pill because there was still no dilation. We started to watch a movie on television. Then my doctor came in to check me. My ears perked up when she said that maybe there was a leak, that perhaps my waters had broken. But a test to verify this came back negative. 

By then I had begun to get mild but consistent contractions. In the evening, the nurse told us that she’d wait to start the drug Pitocin since the contractions were two minutes apart and not spaced out yet. Dinner time came and went. We finished watching the movie that we’d started earlier, wondering when the pace of our own movie was going to speed up. The nurses changed their shifts and gave me another dose of the pill. We settled down for the night, but I was unable to fall asleep. 

Sensing my restlessness, the night nurse with a distinct non-American English accent (it was South African, I later learnt) said to me, “All you can do right now is try to think positively, love. Gather all the time you’ve spent in your nine months of pregnancy and condense it into this waiting period until your labor begins.”

I took heed of her advice and drifted into much-needed sleep. After a couple of hours she came in with promising news. She would be starting a dose of Pitocin through the IV. I went back to sleep and woke up at 6 a.m., refreshed after a good rest even though mild contractions had continued throughout the rest of the night.

And then when I was least expecting it, it happened. I was returning to bed after going to the bathroom when I felt a sudden gush of water trickling down my legs and drenching my feet. 

“Look! Is it what I think it is?” I said to my husband. I had never experienced my water breaking before because during my first childbirth, the doctor had broken my bag of waters.  

The contractions began to come close together now and became stronger like a train picking up speed as it leaves behind a station it’s been stuck at for too long. I began to huff and puff like an old-time train engine, inhaling a deep breath and letting it out in throaty moans. 

It hurt, much worse than what I’d endured in the past. During my first child birth, I had received the epidural in earlier stages of my long labor when the pain level was lesser, while this time, labor was progressing faster. My body and the baby had decided to make a dash toward the finish line in a race car instead of on a bicycle.   

The nurse from the previous day who’d returned for her morning shift massaged my lower back and then flipped me around so that I could lean into her arms while I rocked my hips in tune to excruciating pain. 

“You’re doing great and handling the contractions very well,” she said. 

“Thanks, but when do I get the epidural?” I gasped, looking around for the anesthetist. 

I finally got the epidural in the nick of time, barely able to keep still with the pain accompanying the contractions coursing through me, as the anesthetist inserted the needle for the catheter into my back. Only twenty minutes passed before I became considerably dilated and started to feel the urge to push. 

The doctor came in and within half an hour she, the nurse and my husband positioned themselves around the foot of my bed. Another nurse began to prepare the baby’s station for checkup and cleaning. I no longer felt the pain with the contractions, just immense pressure, which I worked through by pushing on each rising wave. Towards the end, the doctor expertly guided me to “hold” certain pushes as the baby made his way out in the final stretch. 

And then I felt something I’d never experienced during my first time an intense, burning sensation down below, brilliantly named the “ring of fire”. I hunkered down, the past few years of my first-born daughter growing up flashing before my eyes, and told myself over and over again while I tried to push this baby out, “This is the easy part! This is the easy part!” 

Then I gave one final push accompanied by a loud “aaaahhhh”, much like the dramatic one they show in the movies, the mother’s scream just before the shrill cry of a newborn suddenly pierces the air. 

And out he came! Without any cuts, tearing or stitches on me this time. The doctor untangled the umbilical cord that was wound around my son and placed him on my belly with his squished-up little face turned up towards me. 

My husband and I gazed at the newest little member of our family who looked like his older sister when she was born. We couldn’t wait to bring him home to her!

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My short story “Shattered Pieces” published in Potato Soup Journal

My short story titled “Shattered Pieces” has been published in Potato Soup Journal. Read it here: http://potatosoupjournal.com/shattered-pieces-by-deepti-nalavade-mahule/

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My flash fiction story "The New Girl in Our Office" published in The Writing Disorder

My flash fiction story titled “The New Girl in Our Office” has been published in the Spring 2020 issue of The Writing Disorder. Read it here: http://writingdisorder.com/deepti-nalavade-mahule-fiction/

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My micro-fiction story ‘Full Circle’ published at 101Words.org

Here are lovely metaphors given by famous writers to describe flash fiction or micro-fiction: 
“an iceberg”
“ice melting on a hot stove”
“a single raindrop that engulfs its own blue pearl of light”
“the world in a grain of sand”

A fantastic article on flash fiction – On the mirror and the Echo further throws light on this fascinating genre.

Trying to live up to the above, here’s my humble attempt at micro-fiction published in the online magazine 101words.org (in, as the name suggests, exactly 101 words): https://101words.org/full-circle-2/

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