Dear sir or madame, might I hold your baby?
You know how sometimes you’re standing at the grocery store or the coffee shop, holding your kid and trying to find your wallet, and then you drop your keys, and it seems like you don’t have enough hands . . .
What would you think if the person standing behind you offered to hold your baby?
Would that be weird?
It would, wouldn’t it? A total stranger asking to hold your baby. A total stranger with a sad, hungry glint in her eyes . . .
It’s pointless. I’m never going to get to hold a baby again.
My only hope was the kindness of strangers.
There are no babies left in my family, and my friends all have grade-schoolers. Unless I start cultivating close friendships with pregnant women — that would be weird, too, right? — I might even forget what babies smell like.
And I can’t believe that I care. I was never a baby person. Never.
In my 20s and 30s, when people would bring their new babies to work, I’d walk all the way around the newsroom to avoid them. I never knew what to say . . .
“Wow, look at her. Is it a her? Oh, him. Wow. Well. He sure is a baby, all right. Congratulations.”
If someone held a baby out to me, I’d try to back away.
“Oh, no,” I’d say. “He looks pretty comfortable.”
In those days I felt like I’d had enough baby-holding to last me four lifetimes. That’s how many younger brothers and sisters I have — four. By the time I was 13, I was so used to having a baby on my hip that people used to assume my youngest brother was mine. (Which is great for a 13-year-old’s self esteem.)
Back then, I took everything about babies for granted. Like how soft they are. How warm they are. How they curl into your arms. The way they stare up at you, like you’re fascinating . . . All I could feel was them hanging on me. Like monkey-armed parasites that always started crying whenever I tried to talk on the phone.
Having kids of my own changed all that, of course. Everything’s different with your own babies. Even if you’ve never had any interest in other people’s kids, you’re still totally charmed and amazed by your own.
Once I had my own kids, I finally got what all the baby hubbub was about. I realized that holding a baby is as close as anyone ever comes to touching perfection.
What I didn’t realize was that my sons were changing me permanently. I thought that when they outgrew their baby selves, my interest in babies would return to its previous nonexistence.
If anything, I get more baby crazy as they grow up. I look at my kids and see how big they are, how fast they’re growing. My 3½ -year-old is still pretty cuddly. But holding him is more like holding a small ape or a border collie than a baby. And he’s totally lost that new-baby smell. (He kind of smells like a border collie, too.)
I look at my kids, and I love the boys they’re becoming — but I don’t want to forget what it was like to hold them in my arms.
Having another baby isn’t an option. And even it were, I don’t think it’d be smart to have a whole kid just because I miss having an infant. I keep thinking that if I could just hold somebody else’s baby, I could stock up on that feeling and move on.
It would be weird to explain all this to the ladies I see at the grocery store, right?
“Hi, you don’t know me, but I’ve got a real bad baby jones. And if I could just hold your baby for a minute, I really think it would help. Is that cool with you? I’ll let you hold my border collie.”