Greetings, Guests and Regulars!
Back on U.S. soil, my underwear - what's left of it - still damp with Irish mist. Anytime I travel overseas, my socks and undies seem to disappear. I'm sure it has to do with my packing and unpacking method: wad everything up and stuff hastily into backpack; dump backpack upside down on hotel floor upon arrival; kick crumpled clothing mass over into a designated "Monica's Mess" corner of the room; then gather it all back up and re-stuff into backpack upon depature. Not exactly conducive to keeping track of underwear.
(Kevin, on the other hand, folds everything neatly into rectangles and sets, not crams but sets, them into his own backpack. He puts his socks together into sock balls, which never ceases to amaze me. He never loses socks or underwear. Thank god he has whatever gene makes us notice and care about things like wrinkled clothing and dirt and general disarray, or our house would be wreck, and thank god he forgives my own lack of this gene.)
* * *
Speaking of genes, did you know that 75% of the genetic make-up of a child comes from the father, and not the mother? It's true, according to the old Irish man who approached me and Kevin to chat while we were shivering underneath a covered bus-stop in Bantry. He was a farmer with white hair, a few missing teeth, that slightly moth-ball-ish old-person smell, and a thick country-Irish accent I could hardly understand (but of course found endearing).
He asked if we had children and we said "no," to which he responded by peering closely into our faces, looking us up and down, and remarking that he could tell we had "good stock for a strong brood." I decided not to burst this adorable man's bubble by divulging how, um, weak our stock-n-brood really was, historically and statistically speaking anyhow.
Then he asked how old I was, and when I told him thirty-three, his slightly-cloudy eyes got wide with genuine concern. Time is running out! Better start now, he said: have one boy (since the boys are the ones that spread 75% of the family genes down the line) and then a girl. Oh, and I should be eating plenty of fresh meat and dairy produce everyday to for the "strongest stock." I felt oddly happy to be able to emphatically say, "I already do!," and the old man looked pleased as well. I can't imagine what he would have thought if I'd told him not only my shocking age, but that I'm a vegetarian. He probably would have shaken his head in dismay and thought, poor little lassie. She'll never have her strong brood.
Just before toodling off in the rain, he told us he had twelve grown children of his own, and that he and his wife had gotten started producing their "brood" when she was just seventeen years old. Then, when a sort of sad and faraway look in his eyes, he told us she had died fifteen years ago from something-or-other. Now he lived alone on the farm.
* * *
Our bus to Dublin pulled up just then, and Kevin and clamored on to find two seats together.
"Twelve kids?" he said. "No wonder she died early from something-or-other."
What a funny old man with his accent and his outdated beliefs about where our genes come from, about meat and dairy making a strong brood. It was as though he'd stepped out of a medieval storybook page. What nonsense, this man was spewing forth! I know plenty of vegetarians - well, a few anyway - with kids in hand or on the way. And suggesting in semi-seriousness that we just"have a boy and then a girl," just like that? How simple and lovely life would be if it were this easy to come up with a plan - "eat steak and milkshakes, have a boy, and then a girl" - and for such plans to work out flawlessly. Clearly he's out milking cows and not on the Internet reading infertility and KuKd blogs. He just doesn't understand what it's really like out here in the brutal, dog-eat-dog world of 30-plus women trying to make babies.
(And by the way, as if I would want twelve kids. As if Kevin would want me churning out babies all my life, and for what? So I could wear out my poor vaginal canal and die young like this guy's wife did, leaving him alone in the soaked hills of County Cork?)
Kevin and I both chuckled and shook our heads. What a funny old man. Kind of refreshing, actually, his innocent naivety about the whole thing.
Still, on our transatlantic flight home, I found myself unthinkingly asking for an extra pat of butter for my scone. Asking for a carton of milk instead of my usual tomato juice when the beverage cart came rattling by. Digging around first for the ground beef in my pasta, making sure that it had number one priority on its way down my esophagus before the less-brood-enhancing spiral noodles.
Wanting, sort of sheepishly, to shed the foul-mouthed cynicism for a moment and believe. Believe this old man's medieval storybook advice, believe that Kevin and I have some "good stock" in us, that we could somehow produce a "strong brood" that doesn't wither in utero; that eating blue-cheese-stuffed-bacon-wrapped fillet mignon might help with that; that any brood we produce might in fact be comprised 75% of rational and organized Kevin and just 25% of irrational and disorganized me. Daring to want, for just a fleeting second, to carry out this old farmer's perfectly logical plan: have a boy next year. And then a girl. Simple.
But then again, believing just seems so...tiring sometimes.