Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Hello, sweet baby
I've never been a mother. Big sister, yes. As the eldest of seven children, I spent much of my early adolescence washing diapers, feeding the 'little kids', and generally making sure that they didn't kill each other. As a result, my relationship with babies has usually been somewhat utilitarian.
But from time to time, a baby's charm bores a hole right through my heart.
The other day, I was standing in line at Pipolinka's, our village bakery. A family was eating lunch at the one of the round café tables lining the wall. Two young, dark-haired children munched on croissants. Their mother sat breast-feeding their infant brother. Their father stood in line ahead of me. He wore wrap-around sunglasses and a fitted black hat on his head. His face was tanned and unshaven, and sprouted a little tuft of beard underneath his lower lip. While the children remained eating, the mother rose from the table and, with the baby still in her arms, joined him in line. She was dressed in loose layers of sage and tan cotton. Her steady green eyes were set far apart in a wide Slavic face. Her brown hair was roughly cut as if for expediency rather than style.
She hooked her young baby underneath her arm, turning him outwards so that he was facing me. The baby wore an orange and purple jumper. His smooth, plump legs and feet were bare. He looked at me, then grinned widely, displaying toothless gums and a soft pink tongue. I grinned back and smooched the air. Giggling, the baby jiggled up and down, arms and feet pumping. We fell into the bright blue pool of each other's smiles.
Philippe the baker came out from behind the counter, wiping his hands on his apron. He leaned his thin face towards the man. They exchanged a loose hug. He greeted the mother warmly, then extended his arms to take the baby. As the child lay in his arms, Philippe bent his head and snuffled its scalp, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He gently kissed the baby's head. I wanted to do the same: to drink in that tender, dizzying scent of innocence and joy.
For Huda, and her baby, Kareem.