At the risk of sounding like one of those new parents who thinks his baby is the most intellectually astute or physically adept and that everyone else wants to hear about the tot’s early exploits, I will reluctantly relate one of my own experiences.
Every new parent thinks that the profound changes that occur in his household as the result of the first child’s birth are the most hilarious and the most novel, but seldom do they prove to be either.
Robert Brooks Faircloth was born to Carrie and me December 11, 1999. It was a marvelous event, but I was crushed that Carrie couldn’t hold out just a little longer and give us a shot at winning all those millennium baby prizes. You can be reasonably assured that I would hold my tongue about it not really being the millennium if we were being loaded up with cool, free stuff.
We call the boy Brooks, which is my grandfather’s middle name. We didn’t want to use his first name, Merrill, or his nickname, Metz, because, well, at this point we’re not quite sure if he’d be large enough to ward off the inevitable beating those names would provoke in today’s grade school climate. Robert, of course, comes from me, my father, Carrie’s uncle, and probably a hundred other relatives we don’t know about.
But none of this is the point, and I have promised myself not to regale everyone with stories about Brooks that they 2) have heard a thousand times before about other babies, 2) have experienced firsthand with their own children, or 3) find more boring than Al Gore. Even so, I have previously broken my promise and watched many a listener’s eyes glaze over during my stories of puking, pooping, drooling (none of which was my own) and the ubiquitous but pathetic attempt by me and every other parent to translate “da da da” into a pediatric dissertation on molecular biology.
After purchasing a few bottles of commercial baby food, Carrie decided she wanted to try making baby food for Brooks, primarily because it couldn’t be much worse that what you find in the store. Our decision to do so was met with concerns of family and friends that we would also begin milling our own clothes, making our own soap, and keeping a garage full of barnyard animals. Regardless of the ribbing, Carrie is now rivaling the large baby food companies for variety and quality of the baby food she makes. I must admit, however, that some of the combinations, such as tofu and asparagus, chicken and eggplant, and almond milk, are quite odd, and occasionally, nauseating.
The baby food is made in batches to last several days, and is then frozen in separate ice trays and stored for later use. All of this preparation and storage occurs in close proximity to the rest of the family’s foodstuffs. This creates a natural risk of confusion, as witnessed by the fact that occasionally Roger, the German Shepherd Dog, has a bit of pureed turkey added to his dinner bowl instead of the canned dog food I keep in the refrigerator. He seems none the worse for the experience, and actually seems to anticipate the occasional mix-up. However, the phase of baby food production creating the most risk is the freezing.
This fact is demonstrated by the following. I came in from a long afternoon of yard work, prepared myself a cold beverage, and sat down on the couch. I could feel Carrie’s eyes on me, and thought I was yet again in the proverbial dog house for getting sweat and grass clippings on the furniture. When she failed to take the obvious opportunity to point out my shortcomings, I said, “What are you lookin’ at?” Or perhaps it was something like “Take a Polaroid, it’ll last longer.”
At any rate, Carrie said, “You do realize, don’t you, that you’re chilling your tea with frozen sweet potatoes?”
I had not, in fact, so realized.
Time seemed to stand still as my brain processed this new information and produced visions of sweet potatoes being pulled out of the ground, cooked, processed, spooned into ice trays, plopped into my glass, melting, and diffusing particles of yam into my tea. But, in order to maintain the illusion that I was in complete control, I played it cool.
“Of course I know that,” I scoffed. “You haven’t tried it? This is pretty good, but the frozen peas are fantastic in Coca-Cola.” I then hastily drank the remaining tea in order to avoid any further diffusion, in the process giving myself the only case of sweet potato brain freeze in the history of mankind.
I responded in this way, as you married people out there know, because you never give the spouse ammunition if you can possibly help it. My response was premised, however, upon the somewhat suspect proposition that it was better to have intentionally chilled my tea with sweet potato than to have done so by mistake.