they say (2)I’d take him home in a minute, they say. At the mall, the grocery store, while standing in line at the bank. When you finally reach the teller she says, I hope he is your deposit. Your baby smiles shyly, blinks his blue eyes and buries his face in your neck. Then they want him even more.

May I? They ask, hands poised over his blond curls. Like fresh cotton, they say. Like cashmere. Like chenille.

He could be on a magazine. In a commercial. On the side of a Pampers box. They say. At the museum, the zoo, while searching for books at the library. A woman flashes her library card and asks, Can I check him out for a few weeks?

You didn’t expect to have such a beautiful baby. A child who looks like he should be the son of a movie star, a model, or at least a pretty, young newlywed. Not an older housewife with problem hair and irreversible sun damage.

You make a gorgeous baby, a saleswoman says as he fingers her beaded earrings. You need to have another one. They say this often, as if it is easy. You smile and shrug and don’t mention the countless mornings you sat on the bathroom floor with the door locked, muffling your cries in a hand towel. The white plastic stick buried in the wastebasket because there was no blue line. No happy face in the window. Maybe that is why you are so afraid of losing him. Because your age, your health, you are lucky and infinitely grateful to have him at all. Maybe that is why your heart stops a little every time strangers say they want to take him home.

Hayley LeMay likes all things short: short husband (5’6 ½”), son with short attention span, short stack of pancakes, Martin Short, and the short essay. She received an M.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her work has appeared in Hippocampus Magazine.

Photo by Marcia Krause Bilyk