Another great "Facts & Arguments" piece from the back page of today's Globe & Mail. It's not exactly IF-related, but it is, sort of, especially at the end... anyway, I got a kick out of it! (Oh Noah, if only it were so simple...!)
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Facts & Arguments: THE ESSAY
The baby kit
Noah wanted a sibling. So he came up with a plan - first buy the ingredients, then bake them up
June 23, 2008
Noah and I were strapping ourselves in, me into the driver's seat and he into his booster seat. It was a bright Friday morning and I was driving him to school.
I tilted the rearview mirror to split the view between the lane behind me and his corner of the back seat, and settled in for the usual 20 minutes of I Spy, Q and A and random conversation.
"So," my grandson started things off as I pulled out from the curb. "So. My mom's making a baby." I looked back at him, cut again to the street and then back again to him, in quick succession.
This was big news. My son and Noah's mom had been apart for longer than Noah's six years on the planet. Still, everyone is cordial and she and I remain fairly close. I was surprised Noah would have this information before I did. "Really," I said.
"Yes. And it's going to be a baby girl and I will be her big brother. And I will help take care of her and play wif her and cheach her stuff and share my toys."
"Wow," I said. "That's pretty exciting news." He went on, at some length, to explain what it would be like having a baby sister. How he would protect her from mean kids and read to her. Noah was so clearly happy about the prospect, he apparently had zero concerns about giving up the centre spot in his mother's universe.
A few days later, I was talking to Erin to arrange the next "shleepover." "So. Noah had some interesting news for me on Friday."
She laughed. "Was it the baby sister story?" "Story?" I asked "Yes," she said. "Total fabrication." Understanding dawned. Noah wanted a sibling. He had been campaigning tirelessly, asking Erin to make a baby. She had told him she hoped to, but now was just not the right time.
Noah is the sort of boy who sees obstacles as things to clamber over, one way or another, rather than as impassable barriers. So he didn't give up. He took the matter up with Kurt, Erin's boyfriend.
There was some confusion over the process involved, but Noah thought he might have to take things into his own hands. He told Kurt he'd really like to have a baby sister, even if she cried sometimes, even if she spit up, even if she pooped her pants. "My mom isn't gonna make a baby now. And I don't know how to make a baby, but naybe we could go to the store and get the stuff and you could tell me?"
This idea recalled an earlier preoccupation: Noah used to talk about what we would do if we lost him: "You'd have to go to the store and get a new me." He must have developed his own theories of where babies came from - the store, obviously, like everything else.
The specifics he envisioned were not entirely clear, although we were given to understand the oven was required for the baking part. He did know some details. "So," he said, "I was in my mom's belly."
"Yes, you were," I said. "Oh. And then was I in your belly?" I guess he thought he took a tour of the bellies of all his nearest and dearest. No, I told him, he was never in my belly. "Oh," he said, with a look of complete comprehension. "My dad's."
As far as I could work it out, the process was thought to be a trip to the store for the ingredients - maybe some kind of kit, like a gingerbread house? After that we would put it all together and bake him up and enjoy, fresh from the oven. So then he would be in our bellies, from whence he would emerge in good time. And that, then, must be how to make a baby sister, too.
Another Friday, another drive to school. Noah had received an explanation of how babies were made. He told me that people make babies with just their bodies, no ingredients required. He seemed to want corroboration to support such an outlandish claim. Yes, I told him, that was how it worked. Noah looked out the window, and then suddenly: "Hey! I got a idea - you should make a baby."
I said I would like to make a baby but I couldn't. Why not, he wanted to know, a little frustrated. Well, I said, when women became older they stopped being able to have babies. "Why?"
"Well," I told him, "that's just the way our bodies work." "But why?" Not wanting to introduce the spectre of mortality into an already complicated discussion, I told him babies are a lot of work and older people don't have as much energy.
"Oh." Noah wasn't pleased but didn't see any new avenues of approach. Now he knew how the process worked, but was beginning to understand he may not be able to make it happen.
I empathized with Noah's struggle. Even with knowledge of how babies are made, it still seems barely believable that with just our bodies we can mix up the ingredients and make a complete individual as original as, say, Noah. I don't know why his longing is so powerful, or how long it will last. But I hope the right time will arrive and the ingredients will come together for that baby girl. Because her big brother is ready and waiting.
Ivy Wigmore lives in Charlottetown.