My four-year-old is recovering from chicken pox. The other day at breakfast, Ezra asks (or rather, tells) me, ‘Mummy, when you were a baby you had chicken pox too.’
No, I reply, I had chicken pox as a young girl.
‘And where was Jed?’
‘Where was Jed when you were a girl? Was he in your tummy?’
Jed wasn’t around yet, I inform him. ‘You know that Jed was only born last year. Also I hadn’t met your daddy yet so of course there was no Jed.’
Ezra’s spoon hovers over his cereal bowl.
‘So where was he?’
The subtext is clear. And where was I? My armpits prickle. I can see where this is leading. It’s the metaphysical investigation, the ultimate unanswerable: Where did I come from? Who was I before you and daddy made me?
When you grow up and especially when you’re approaching middle age, it’s hard not to stop and wonder sometimes if there’s life after death. But the equal mystery of life before birth haunts less until you have a four-year-old, cereal spoon poised, quizzing you about his beginnings. And this goes way deeper than the birds and the bees.
Do I follow the religious route and preach about Jed’s heavenly origins? Do I tell a fairytale of some pre-birth wonderland filled with bouncing babies waiting to be delivered to their parents?
‘Jed was in my heart,’ I say, feeling rather clever. I’m ready to explain the poetic meaning of my statement but Ezra looks unconvinced.
‘Where do you think Jed was?’ I ask.
‘Jed was in your tummy,’ Ezra says emphatically, spooning another mouthful from his bowl.
Hmm, I reply. We’ll leave it at that for now because I guess partly (you could say 50 percent) he’s right.
Plus I don’t have the nerve to start getting into how, when and why Jed wound up in my tummy. I haven’t even had a cup of tea yet.
Pic credit: Tung Chi