About a week ago Lydia suddenly starting asking a very strange question. Every day, several times a day, she will quietly come up next to me, or sit staring dreamily out the front window, or ponder her toes from the back seat of the car, and ask with genuine curiosity, “Daddy, when am I going to have lots and lots of babies?”
At first I was shocked, and I sat down and seriously discussed with her the nature of being a child and what it means to grow up and get married and how you sometimes have to wait a long time before you have children, and I hoped to leave it at that. But then after repeated questioning my patience collapsed and I began simply telling her “Later, dear. Not right now.”
But then the other day I watched her once again run to the window and excitedly ask the question and I had a sudden boiling of icy fear grow inside my chest. A cold claw of dread wrapped itself around my heart and I was momentarily unable to breath. I had a flash of memory crystallize on my mind. A memory from just over a week ago, when I discovered my youngest daughter hiding behind the couch in the living room shopping for something on Amazon. What if, I thought. What if, I had not taken the phone away fast enough? What if the unimaginable had happened? What if my daughter had actually found a way to order “lots and lots of babies” on my phone, while hiding behind the couch, and is now simply waiting for her shipment to arrive? “When am I going to have lots and lots of babies?” Is she simply asking for an shipping notification?
Now, I sometimes walk to the front window in the evening, and I see a UPS van round the corner into our neighborhood, and I shudder. I imagine behind him is a second UPS van, and then another, and stretching down the length of the highway is a whole crawling centipede of UPS delivery vans. And they are all headed to my driveway. An army of men and women in brown shorts all filling my front yard with box upon box of crying babies. My ecstatic little girl signing off on the mountain of delivery slips with a purple crayon. She will dance among the brown smiling boxes, picking each of the babies up in her overfull arms, kissing them on the cheeks and forehead. And in my imagination, I throw on my coat and a mismatched pair of shoes and I flee out the back door. And I run. I Run and I run, and I never look back, and I never stop running.