Sunday, June 15, 2014

BUS STORY # 397 (Raising Baby)

Downloaded from the Yunnan-Guizhou Tourism Geography Network.

A couple boards the bus, the gal with a baby, the guy with a stroller. They sit on the bench seat up front.

He’s got big pants, a white T-shirt, a buzz cut, tattoos on both arms, and script tattooed along his left jugular. She’s got black jeans and a print, modestly scoop-necked blouse with an elaborate tattoo rising out of the scoop.

The kid is less than a year, cute as a button. He’s sitting on mom’s lap, looking happy and content.

The next thing I realize about the couple is that they’re talking to one another. I can’t hear what they’re saying, but what I mean is they’re talking to one another like they’re not married. There’s too much attentiveness, too much animation and balance.

The guy reaches over and puts his hand on the kid’s head, then covers the kid’s face with it and shakes it a little. He makes baby talk while he’s doing this, and I can see the kid trying to squirm out of the hand.

He quits, then does it again. Mom doesn’t look the least bit perturbed. She’s watching the baby the whole time, and appears to be enjoying all this.

Then the guy does a kind of polk-tickle-polk-tickle, pulling back with his hands in a fighting stance, then back to the polk-tickle. The kid flails both hands toward the guy’s. Both grown-ups laugh approvingly.

At first, I am uncomfortable with what I’m seeing. It feels like there’s a cruel, even violent edge to the play. I find myself thinking about how the guy himself was probably raised, about the environment they’ve grown up in, about how the kid is learning early it’s a tough life and you gotta be able to take care of yourself...

But then I see the kid is smiling. He doesn’t look upset, or like he wants to cry. I’ve seen him frown, as if to work out what’s happening here, then try and deal with it, first by evasion, and when that didn’t work, by meeting it head on. But I can see in his face this is a game, and he’s up for it.

The game stops, and he tries to stand up. He’s up for just a moment, then topples into mom. Both mom and the guy let him know how much they approve this effort, what a good kid he is. He smiles big. At both of them, so I know he isn’t just taking refuge in mom.

The guy pulls the cord and starts to get up. She says something to him, and he starts searching his voluminous pants pockets. He finally finds what he’s looking for and hands her a cigarette. As he’s walking toward the door, I hear her say, “Call me.” And then she takes the kid’s hand and waves it after the guy. “Goodbye, Gino.* Goodbye, Gino. Goodbye, Gino.”

Husband? Probably not. Brother? Cousin? Boyfriend? She wishes? I don’t know.

What I do know is the kid is loved. I know this from watching him the whole time, and when I think about it, from mom, too. And I’m surprised. It’s not the way I’d do it. But the bus never seems to get tired of showing me how much bigger the world is than mine.

__________


* Real name changed.

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