Sunday, September 14, 2008


BUS STORY # 99 (Teach Your Children Well)


I’m sitting in the seats facing the aisle in the back of the homebound No. 11. I’m watching a mother and her daughter playing patty cake in the back of the bus. Mom must be in her early 20s. She’s wearing shorts and she has sturdy, smooth brown legs. Her daughter is snugged between those strong legs, facing her mom, her back to the back of the seat in the next row. She might be four. She’s wearing shorts and a frilly, sleeveless blouse, and she’s got those little-girl ponytails swinging from each side of her head.

As they get toward the end of the routine, the little girl tries to speed things up and loses her coordination. They both laugh, and the little girl says, “Again, mommy!” And they do it again, and again, and again, until she gets it right. They both dissolve in laughter, and Mom gives her a big hug. Their joy is infectious.

Mom suggests a new game. The patter goes like this:

Double, double, ice, ice,
Double, double, cream, cream,
Double ice, double cream,
Double, double, ice cream.

Mom shows us how to touch fists, little finger side to little finger side, with each “double.” She shows us how to touch palms with each “ice.” Then she shows us how to touch the backs of the hand with each “cream.”

This one is new to the little girl and to me, too. The little girl struggles, but she makes progress. There is that same laughter throughout, but the little girl seems to plateau right at the end, and her laughter starts sliding toward frustration.

Mom moves quickly, switching to a game they obviously know well. She points toward the front of the bus. “Look! It’s a -- ”

The little girl giggles and shouts “Window!” Then the little girl points out the window and shouts, “Look! It’s a -- ”

“Store!”

“Nooooo, mommy.”

“Tree?”

The little girl giggles.

¡Mira! ¡Mira! ¡Mira!” Mom sits bolt upright and points out the window. “It’s an unmarked police car!”

“Where, mommy?” The little girl pushes past her mother’s left knee and peers down through the window.

“Right there. The white car.”

“That one, mommy?” She’s pointing out toward the far lane.

“No, right there.”

“In that white car?”

I’m pretty sure the car is in the next lane and a little behind us. I can’t see it from where I’m sitting. I can see the white car in the turn lane the little girl is pointing to. The light turns and our lanes start moving.

“Right there. Follow my finger. It’s an undercover cop.”

“Right there, mommy?”

I’m pretty sure the little girl never saw the car her mother was pointing out. But as she did with “Double, double,” she got part of the lesson: “Is that one the undercover cop?”

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