Her hair has been dyed blonde. The roots are showing , particularly as it has been gelled back and put up in a hair claw. Her face was pretty, once. Now, her freckles are incongruous with the silver eyeshadow over her resentful brown eyes. Her chubby face has relaxed into a permanent disappointed pout. Her nails, long and acrylic, are painted sky blue. Her little blonde girl is obviously eager to talk. She says “Hihihi” to people around her, but her mother never speaks to her, and in fact, even taps her child on the chest a couple of times when the child vocalizes, to discourage her. Taps, but never touches. The nails preclude actual contact. The mother is hooked into earphones blasting death metal at a volume that I, sitting four feet away, can hear clearly. Her vacant eyes track the scenery as her drooping lips mouth lyrics like a zombie half-mawing the leg of a victim. Never once, that I see, does she engage with her child.
Her hair has never seen dye. Rich and ginger, it is merely a part of her body; nothing special. Her face is not beautiful by any cultural standard I know of. But she observes everything around her watchfully, analytically, and her brown eyes are beautifully thoughtful, if guarded. Her nails are short and unkempt. Her baby is only thirty-four days old, and she strokes him as she watches the world, and sees what he sees. He is always within the confines of her arms, or touching her, somehow. She carries him with her, against or on her body, when she moves from place to place. They rest in a place where she makes sure her baby can see everything, and she can see everything, but where they are both safe. Occasionally she turns to him, to make sure he wants for nothing.
Mother A is a woman Em and I saw on the bus yesterday. Mother B is an orangutan in the Toronto Zoo.
I bet I can be a better mother than Mother A, a member of my own species.. But Mother B? I don’t know. That was some pretty good mothering.