26 February 2022
Carly had a baby; it was premature. It weighed just four pounds – I witnessed the digital readout on the scale.
The baby looked like a lumpy beef patty, as though someone did a terrible job forming a hamburger, with ground beef lumps for head, arms, legs. On-theme, Carly wanted to keep the baby warm, so she was warming it in a cast-iron frying pan on low heat.
Using its handle, Carly rattled the pan on the stove: “Gotta keep the heat even…don’t want to scald…”
I looked at Carly. I looked at her meat baby. Carly looked at her meat baby with the eyes of a mom, then reached in with bare hands and picked it up. Of course, bare hands, because if it was too hot for a bare hand, it’d be too hot for a baby, right?
“Oooh. Oh dear, it got too warm,” she cooed. My anxiety flared. Did she kill it? She handed it to me.
I expected it to feel like an overcooked hamburger patty – perhaps it did, a little – but it also thumped and wiggled in my palms. It was, in fact, a live baby. Very alive. Too warm, though. I cradled it. I cuddled it. I pulled it up to my shoulder to lay its head there. My hands wrapped around its little body against my chest. The warmth, the weight reminded me of my own babies when they were newborn. My body knew exactly what to do with this little thing by instinct. By muscle memory. By emotional memory – is emotional memory a thing? I loved.
“We need to get him baptized!” Carly gasped.
I carried Carly’s meat baby, asi, to church; we wound down, down the pews toward the subterranean altar, behind which ran a swift baptismal river. That a church would stand upon a river for baptism reminded me of the River Jordan and Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist…
Yet there was no access from the altar-level to the river. How do I get meat baby to the river? I thought, wandering around at the gates down below, finding that every access to the water was barred by walls, locked doors, or waist-high rails that allowed me to watch the flowing water but not access it. Snuggling my chin and cheek into warm meat baby, I turned and slowly meandered back up the wide platform steps of the sanctuary, past the murmuring members of the congregation, then left into a quiet room where new mothers can take crying babies so as not to disturb the service. Giant plate-glass windows opened out over the congregations heads to show the church’s empty nave; the service had not yet started.
What the heck! I thought. This was not where we needed to be for baptism, either. Warm meat baby still nestled at my shoulder, I returned to the sanctuary and walked along the back of the congregation to an open door on the opposite wall: this door led without obstruction down to the river.