Thursday, December 31, 2009

300 Kids

by Ashley Lister

I’m writing this with a baby asleep in the pram in my office. This sleeping fellow is baby Paxton. There’s no need to be quiet. You won’t wake him.

Paxton came into this world on Christmas day and is probably the three hundredth baby my wife has created. Yes. You read that correctly. 300. She’s a very productive lady. I’m very proud of her determined approach to creating babies.
Below is a picture of me holding Fester: the baby I made in September.

Before anyone starts to get confused, I should point out that the babies Tracy makes are actually dolls. Reborn dolls, to give them their correct titles: lifeless lumps of plastic fashioned, styled, weighted and painted to produce surprisingly realistic creations. Tracy paints them. Tracy adds hair to their scalp – rooting each strand individually. And Tracy also sells them. This is her website: if you don’t believe me.

I’m not sure if the photographs above convey how realistic these dolls are. To illustrate how lifelike they are, we were recently driving to a doll show with a car stacked full of ‘babies’ in clear plastic boxes. We stopped at a motorway service station and took a break from the drive. A woman walked past the car and did a genuine double-take when she noticed our stock of two dozen ‘babies’ in plastic boxes.

“They’re dolls,” I explained quickly.

The woman looked again and sighed with relief. I could understand her consternation. If the dolls had been real babies it would be troubling to think that someone was ferrying twenty-four youngsters across the country with all of them wobbling about in sealed, airtight boxes.

“I’m so glad you told me,” the woman said. “I was going to report you to the police.”

Which means I live in a house that’s invariably filled with kids, often upwards of a dozen, and all of them blissfully silent.

Does this interfere with my writing? Damned right it does.

When Tracy is ‘making a baby’ it’s not uncommon for arms, legs and heads to be strewn around the house like the remnants from a slasher-movie slaughter. I’ve been for a pee in the middle of the night and come face to face with a decapitated, eyeless head staring blindly at me from atop the cistern.

This is not conducive to writerly thoughts, unless you happen to be writing a book about murder, mutilation or decapitated eyeless heads staring at you in the midnight hour. Which, at the moment, I’m not.

In lots of ways it’s like having real kids in the house. Sometimes they’re a distraction: sometimes you forget that they’re there; and sometimes you can just put them into a plastic box whilst you get on with doing important stuff like writing – because that’s what caring parents do. (NB – please note I’m not seriously advocating stuffing children into plastic boxes. Cardboard boxes are more environmentally friendly).

Admittedly, on the kid front, I’m also fortunate enough to have Ash JR living at home. He’s 20 now (and will be 21 later this year) which means he’s no longer a child.

Does he know what I write? He always has done.

Do I protect him from my fiction? Most weekends we watch horror movies, trying to out-gross each other with selections picked for their über-scary special effects or chillingly-awful acting. Considering he’s so good at picking films I think I’m the one who needs protection of some sort.

Does he ever make writing problematic? Yes and no. His Playstation is addictive – especially those two-player games in which we can compete head-to-head. His tastes in movies and quality dramas are compelling. And he knows how to distract his father from a work in progress by simply arguing approaches to Shakespeare or discussing music. Single-handedly he’s far more of a distraction to my writing than the other 300 ‘babies who’ve been through the house in the past few years. But it’s never a problem to spend quality time with your son so that’s not really a problem. And, if it ever did become problematic, I could always try to put him in a box with one of the other ‘babies’ in the house. Because that’s what caring parents do.


  1. Hey Ash,

    The baby at the head of your post is incredibly real-looking. It seems that your wife, like you, is a true artist!

    Happy New Year!


  2. Lisabet,

    Thank you. It does make for a very 'artsy' household at times, but I don't think that's always a bad thing.

    Good new year wishes to yourself,


  3. LOL:)

    I read the first part of your post to my kids, who gasped when I got to the part the 1st baby is actually a doll! Tell Tracy she has definitely captured the look of a newborn:)

    Now if toddlers would only come with 'off' switches, lol...

  4. Ash, I love your gift for turning a theme sideways, on its head, and/or inside out. So brilliant!

  5. Molly,

    I've passed the message onto Tracy. Best wishes to you and your family for 2010!


  6. Jeremy,

    Thank you. It's a huge giggle writing here at the Grip and you know I enjoy being quirky.

    All the best for 2010,


    PS - Congratulations on the publication of ROCK MY SOCKS OFF. Can't wait to see this one in print.

  7. Hi Ashley!

    This was really good. I love the image of seeing doll parts all over the house. The Beatles tried to make a album cover like that once in the '60s and almost got themselves in trouble before the suits interfered. Its a wonderful image.

    Its good that your kid knows what you write and can hang out with you on that. I suppose my kid will read my stuff too someday, if he hasn't secretly done so already. What do we know about what our kids do when we're not there? It's funny but on the bookshelves in the guest room the erotic story anthologies and How to Fuck Good manuals are all right there mixed in together with all the other books I've piled up over the years, there's no effort to hide them, but as near as i can tell he never looks at any of the books on the shelves. He just uses the PlayStation 3 downstairs. When i was a kid I was always making a dive for my dad's bookshelf to see what naughty treasures he had hidden away there and he never tried to stop me. I embarrassed him a couple of times too.

    I predict that in the future human populations will decline not because of world wide birth control but because of video games and cable TV.

    Hey - if you and your son want to see a ferocious powerful horror movie check out "Martyrs". Its a french movie, who knew the French could make horror movies?


  8. Love your "artsy" household, the jury's still out whether the kids will follow in my dreamy creative footsteps, or be more pragmatists like their dad. Very geeked to find out and fingers crossed.

    Give Ash Jr and your wife a big hug and tell them Happy New Year from your new fellow gripper!

  9. Garce,

    Junior and I are just ploughing our way through the Friday 13th series which he got me as a gift for Christmas. The acting varies between mediocre and abysmal and the plots thinner than an anorexic super model. But we still jump at the scary places and laugh together, which is what families should do.

    I'm going to see if I can find a copy of Martyrs.

    Have a good New Year - you and and your family.


  10. Devon,

    Whether your kids turn out to be artsy or pragmatic, the main thing is to be sure they're happy: which your photos kind of suggest they already are.

    Thanks for the good wishes. I hope you and your family have a stellar 2010.




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