The world is divided into people who peel back the husks on their corn before they leave the grocery store, and those who leave it all to chance. My husband, Bruce, and I have always been the latter. So I was horrified when I shucked the corn we’d bought at a farm stand last week and revealed some of the most hideous, malformed ears I’d ever seen. This time of year, the corn in New Jersey is enviable: white, and so sweet, it needs no butter or salt at all. But when I opened up the corn we bought at the farm stand, instead of finding small white kernels in neat little rows, like children’s teeth, I found over-sized yellow kernels going off in every direction, like a hillbilly’s smile. It was grotesque. And it tasted mealy, to boot.
I wouldn’t be the first person to gasp at ugly corn. There’s a contest each year, sponsored by CropLife magazine, where farmers in Iowa win a prize for having the most wretched, nasty, and just plain ugly ears of corn in the state.
Ugly corn is apparently on the rise. According to the Iowa State University’s Corn and Soybean Initiative, professors have received an unusually high number of ear samples over the last several years, where farmers sent in photos of their most hideous looking ears of corn. Some ears had reduced numbers of kernel rows, others were classified as blunt ears, short ears, ‘baby’ ears, twin ears, pinched ears, and ears with no kernels at all.
We went to bed relatively early after dinner. We’d had a long drive back from Toronto. That night, I dreamed our baby was malformed. I don’t remember the details of the dream. I just remember telling Bruce about it the next morning, and that I knew my dream was spurred by the corn.
“We’ve had a lot of good corn,” Bruce said.
I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with my baby’s health and development, and it’s taken away some of the joy of being pregnant. People say, “Oh, don’t think bad thoughts. It’s bad luck,” just as some have told me, “Don’t obsess about cancer. You’ll bring it on that way.” I can’t help it. I can stop listening to my mind’s chatter by covering my ears and saying, “Loo loo, loo loo, loo loo, ya ya ya,” but I can’t stop the thoughts from coming. I can only feel reassured that one probably can’t create cancer by simply thinking about it, just as one’s baby won’t suddenly develop deformities simply by dwelling on it.
I have a nuchal translucency ultrasound this morning, which determines the likelihood the fetus has Down’s syndrome. They assess this by measuring the collection of fluid under the skin at the back of a baby’s neck. While all babies have fluid, babies with Down’s syndrome have more.
If all looks good, I can breathe a small sigh of relief. However, if anything looks suspect, they’ll likely suggest an amniocentesis, thrusting us into that biblical place of having too much knowledge and being punished for it: we’d have to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I have a nasty habit of getting depressed about news I haven’t yet received.