“Renee is bewildered by infancy. Not just bewildered in the way that all mothers are by their new-born babies (although she is in that way, too). Renee is freaked out in an additional way, because it is different, this baby, her baby: it talks.
And nothing could have prepared her for the teeth.”
(This story is not exclusively about infants and breastfeeding, but is certainly far more nipply than I ever am in conversation. I am actually a bit of a prude. *)
Central to this story, I think — but what do I know? I just wrote it! — is the Platonic notion of the daemon. This is the idea that, before our birth, a spirit or daemon chooses us — each of us specifically and individually — to live in the world and to fulfill its goals. This includes choosing the parents to which the child must be born. Now, the bad news is that the daemon plays pretty rough if it thinks you are wandering from the path, and will forcibly take you off the path if it sees fit. Think of that, next time you are flat on your back with ‘flu when you have a deadline. Check James Hillman or Carl Jung on this concept. Also, check Jung to find out more about the psychopomp.
I dare you to tell me that newborn babies don’t make you feel you are in the presence of ancient aliens, of superbeings, of teeny, tiny, wobbly gods.
In trying to find a way to write about the humbling weirdness of newborns, I found myself thinking about reincarnation, and Plato’s Myth of Er. That made me think of the bad behaviour of gods in Greek myth and literature. It’s Hephaestus, armourer to the gods, who ruts on Athena’s leg when she comes to him for weapons. And it’s Athena who picks up the island of Sicily and wallops Enkanados with it. Athena is my favourite Greek god. And yes, I refer to Athena as a god. I don’t use the word goddess any more than I use the word doctoress.
Newborn babies who pretend they can’t talk, maybe just so you’ll you think you are smarter, and take care of their bodily needs. Greek gods and daemons. Psychopomps. Grand Rounds. Hospital births. Teeth.
Stay with me, here, because one thing I love to do as a writer is start from an ordinary, everyday event, and then cast a net as broadly and as possible, and see what kinds of ideas I can catch in it. My job as a writer is to bring you, the reader, back in with the catch.
I consider this to be a funny story, and hope you do, too, else I am really off the mark.
Also, there is a little nod to PeeWee’s Playhouse in this story. Did you catch it?
* Wait until we get to the stories with sex in them: you will have to read them aloud yourself because I never will. I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.