Laughing Gas and the Chestnut Tree

When I was growing up we lived on a shady street in the Bronx.  Several doctors and dentists had offices on our block and my dad was one of them.  He was a GP who practiced on the ground floor of our three-story house and we lived on the two upper floors “over the store”.   (See Fluffy, or How I Got My Dog and The Corpse in the Office)

For many years a dentist named Ben rented space in my dad’s office.  Ben was a wonderfully kind and gentle man and he and his wife Eleanor became my parents’ lifelong friends,  and Ben of course became our family dentist.

Then at some point Ben took a larger office down the street in a house with a beautiful chestnut tree in the front yard.

One day when I was 9 or 10 I went down the block to Ben’s office for my dental appointment and he told me I had a cavity – my first!  He said he’d give me laughing gas to relax me while he filled it.

Laughing gas sounded like fun and I sat still while his nurse put a mask over my nose.  Then Ben told me to lie back in the chair and look out the window at the chestnut tree.

I did,  and Ben filled that first cavity.

Ben was my dentist until I moved out of my parents’  house,  and over the years I’ve had a few others.   All of them have been nice guys and fine dentists – but none gave me laughing gas,  or had a beautiful chestnut tree I could see from the dental chair.

And none will ever be as dear to me as Ben.

Dana Susan Lehrman 


  • Nice story Dana.
    I just wrote a reminiscence of my childhood friend Abe who’s turning 80. We lived on a shady Bronx street as well with oaks and maples, lady bugs and fireflies, and most of the people on the street were shady!
    A lot of dogs and no such thing as a pooper scooper, made for a lovely hot summer day aroma.
    Never knew what anyone did for a living, they left in the morning for the IRT with the Daily News under their arms.
    Sending Abe a box of Spauldings for his birthday, thank you Amazon. He’ll need to supply his own broomstick and chalk.

  • What a nice memory and intro to dentistry! I too had a good early experience with dentists since our 1st was my uncle in Brooklyn. It was a long subway trip from the Bronx, but worth it since a great lunch and house visit followed the appointment!

  • Thanx for your wonderful memory Carol, and indeed worth the trip from the Bronx to Brooklyn for the dental appointment with your uncle, and then the family visit!

  • Dana, So love your stories. You make the past present, the kindly doctor who lived with his family where he practiced and rented out space to a dentist who used laughing gas. Modern medicine has brought many prayed for answers, but still, something very personal lost.

    • Thanx Mike, it’s true indeed that with advancements sometimes personal connections are lost. But luckily we have a dentist now who’s a big Yankee fan – so there’s that!

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