[ToC]

 

BABY FEVER

Margaret Everton

 

 

"... fever
When you kiss them
Fever if you live and learn
Fever! till you sizzle
What a lovely way to burn"

—Eddie Cooley and Otis Blackwell, "Fever"

 

 

There were these baby dolls manufactured to grow warm as if with fever. Girls were to feel the joy of caregiving as foreheads cooled, but something malfunctioned and these baby dolls all kept getting hotter and hotter until they were boiling hot. The little mommies wanted to hold their babies so much that they kept picking them up anyway and getting burned. Even girls who did not originally want to be given a baby couldn’t resist holding this bundle that singed their forearms and clavicles and kindled ontological questions more perplexing than any brainteaser at school. Girl and baby seemed to fuse together and for the first time the mommies wondered about the self. They had strange dreams about fires and lava, learned words like Fahrenheit and cold compress. They paid closer attention to stories like the medieval Norwegian mother authenticating her infant as future king by carrying searing iron rods through a church. People hearing the story said, Barbaric, this mother shouldn’t have been allowed to handle something so intense! But these mommies felt that this reaction had a glitch, that everyone should be given their own scalding handful to carry down their own narrow stretch, should be allowed to grow hot and know what it is to burn up with love.

 

 

 

 

 

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I could never find a satisfying way to write about the intensity of motherhood and life in general until I heard—true story—about these baby dolls around the same time I'd been reading a picture book with woodcut, hand-tinted illustrations called The Race of the Birkebeiners, which culminates with the mother carrying burning rods.