She is lying sweetly asleep in my lap. A new tiny creature in clothes that are still a bit wide. Lara was born on the 11th of June 2008 at 10:48. Her proud parents are Abel and Wendy.
Every now and then Lara releases these burps, little bubbles of soured milk. A sea-sick girl on the waves of careful arms. If you put your finger into her small hand, she will firmly clasp it, even when asleep. It’ an ancient reflex. An anthropologic proof of our prehistoric past! Keep close to mama’s fur up there high in the trees. She snores adorably and she sometimes opens her eyes half-way.
I can hear the rumbling of her newly activated stomach. Lara’s existence only covers a few days. This is an important test. All systems ready? “Engines, shields, environmental controls” Everything should work. Her kidneys, lungs, heart, immune systems. “Checking CPU/MEM/Disk… [OK] All systems: Go! We have lift off” was what Abel wrote. Lara did fine. For the time being she’s still an empty screen. This tiny little creature can still become everything. Abel sees computers starting, I see anthropology and ‘starships’. I wonder what Lara is seeing.
She only knows the fuggy room in the hospital, Jan and Joland brought a jungle plant and some cards are dangling, and there is a balloon, but it all remains a bit stuffy. The windows can’t be opened. To Lara this all isn’t a big thing. She for the time being is still dwelling in the twilight between patches of light and underwater sounds. In a stage of half-sleep. Babies can do that, like sharks can.
It’s as if she is dreaming. Would that already be possible. She hasn’t seen anything yet? Or does her soul directly rise from Plato’s world of ideas?
Maybe she knows the things about life before this life. Things we have forgotten? Or is ideology altogether genetically passed and is she already struggling with the ideas of her parents about Flair and Linux, Esprit and Winnie the Pooh and a god who might possibly be a Wiki. Disturbed babydreams about smoking and cleaning.
All of a sudden I realise what I’m holding. The fate of this bunch of cuteness. Lara has landed up in the cultural civil war of her parents. The fight for Lara’s thoughts has started. For the time being this is beyond her comprehension and she’s just here on my lap making sweet spluttering sounds. Lara still operates on “initial setting”. How fascinating this still a-cultural person is.
Lara’s the first baby I’m holding. I feel like a terrorist, with a bomb on a bus, nailed to the chair. It is as if I hold a shark onto my lap. Strange… I know. I’m innocently stared at by a cute little child. She almost weighs nothing and yet her weight is almost unbearable.
The serious impact of this small thing. I almost do not understand how Abel and Wendy found the courage to make it. This little girl will grow up and start to think about stars, biology and history. I try to understand. Abel had already told me: “it makes you almost spiritual, neighbour!” Why it is like that I don’t know, but he’s right.
How helplessly does this little creature wave arms and legs about from time to time. Why does she do so? Is she already exercising? Lara, a ninja-girl to be. In the meantime she explores the world and tries to feel everything (where am I lying on? what is this soft substance around my arms and legs?). It still makes no sense. If you leave this little one behind, it’ll die. All of a sudden I feel this immense admiration for our ancestors on the plains in Africa. What are you doing with these creatures who are sweetly but helplessly woolgathering when no jimjams, thermometer, Queenies or pampers are available? How did people manage dealing with this a thousand years ago? Did they braid cods from grasses, did they weave nests, did they dig holes?
“Back then people had more hair that could provide for warm and soft isolation material for sleeping babies” Jan says who came to sit next to me.
“Or you could wrap those babies in animal furs of bears and buffaloes,” I added.
“The group was probably of primordial importance. They lived in tribes, didn’t they?”
“They’d better. Hairy ‘babysitters’ in caves.”
Lara opens her eyes. It is as if she sees us. She wears a jumpsuit with a small green snail print on it.
“Why are babies so cute, What’s the advantage of their charm in the tough struggle of life? A lion wouldn’t possibly think: ‘Gosh how cute… I’d better not eat this one.”
“No the cuteness is in our heads. We alone can see it. It is something subjective. By making these little spluttering sounds Lara makes herself noticed and prevents to be left behind. The genes that find you so unresisting are quite successfully working. It’s interesting to see how everyone reacts when she cries: the ahs and ohs.”
“Precisely, where do all those exaggerated comforting sounds come from that are spontaneously produced by everyone?”
“Strangely enough, it’s not my child and yet I would give my life for her.”
“Indeed, I think we all feel like this. That’s nature. Strangely enough now everything is arranged by couples but people are social animals. In earlier times people used to live as a team. Children were taken care of together.”
Now and then some muscles in Lara’s face contract. Could there be any connection with the rumbling sounds in her stomach? “Hush, hush little Lara.”
Meanwhile the cramps in my own legs gradually increase. I try not to breathe. Would cavemen also have been nervous or are we sissies being intimidated by a baby?
You should not underestimate the power of those little ones. Be aware of the cute. I’m still dizzy by the sheer force with which she forces herself upon everyone. She had Wendy captured long before she was even there. The business had been arranged before by biology and genes, strengthened by the calculating force of society that stimulates us into getting babies. We are but Lara’s slaves. Helpless? Who is in charge? Lara dominates everything, from now on it’s all about her. Cuteness is a weapon, a subtle way to manipulate. Speaking about weapons… her charm is much more efficient than claws or teeth. We are emotionally captured by a baby.
Wendy sits on the bed. She looks relieved but also overwhelmed. What would she live through? It has been a while since we spoke to each other. She’s unwrapping gifts. A plastic bag filled with parcels. Little Winnie the Pooh-things for her and Lara. Most parcels contain sweets, a flask, bath foam, balloons, lollypops, blow bubble cans, funny hats, a candle shaped in the form of a number one.
I’ve taken a look at cyberspace about what is said on the name Lara. She is called after buxom heroines who fight monsters and do archaeological excavations. Films have already been made of her. Lara is still swaying her arms and legs. Now I know she is working out. This is of utmost importance. “Sorry Lara, you don’t seem very limber-some to me, you rather make the helpless impression of a turtle lying on its back. Even superheroes have to start from scratch.”
According to the ‘Fasti’ of Ovid Lara is a river nymph. She lived among the reeds in the swamplands of the Tiber in ancient Italy. Ovid wrote that Jupiter was involved in an extra-marital relationship with Juturna, a nymph and sister of Lara. Lara tells Juno, Jupiter’s wife, what is going on in the fringes. To punish her for this betrayal Jupiter tears out Lara’s tongue and she is exiled to the shadow world, or the underworld, I think. As such she become the protector of the deaf-and-dumb.
The English translation says: “Jupiter told Mercurius to lead her to the shadows; that place is fitted for the silent.”
Mercurius finds her very beautiful and on their way he rapes Lara who obviously can’t shout. She gets pregnant and delivers a twin: the Lares, who become the protectors of the junctures and entrance gates of the city.
“Don’t you worry little darling, forget all these Roman cruelties”, I whisper to Lara. “You are born in a civilised world. An army of kin will protect you against lions and cruel gods. You will live in the future… which will be probably very dull, clean and scientific.”
I look into her eyes… that almost see nothing yet.
For the time being she is sleeping in her soft jumpsuit, far away from all wars, gods and monsters.
If you arrive at the hospital you have to follow yellow lines, those lead you straight to the maternity ward. This is the new world, Lara. Everything is nicely outlined. Also new children like you. You have become a database, which can be downloaded at disposal. This is the place where we get children. The university hospital ‘Gasthuisberg’, a gigantic factory with small rooms: “a hearty welcome, Lara, in the Matrix. Maybe you are the girl who will explode the whole lot.”
translated into English by Frieda Van der Mast