The front of our building faces Washington Street, so anyone familiar with this area knows the silver line bus passes frequently – three buses actually, SL4, SL5, and SL6. Liron grew up looking out these huge windows, enjoying the view of passing bicyclists, cars, pedestrians, and the bus of course, so one day I decided it was time for us to take a ride. She must have been about 9 months old. I put her in the ergo (the South Enders’ Bjorn) – grabbed a few things, and off we went. To Downtown Crossing. H and M. It’s me, remember.
Here’s the awesome part.
Growing up I wasn’t always the most optimistic, inviting person. Over the years, among other things, having a child really changed my perspective on people and the world. The world truly opens up to you when you have a baby. Random people on the street strike up a conversation with you, hold the door for you, smile at your kid, ask you stuff that’s none of their business … In general, after I had Liron I felt embraced – by people in general. Seriously. The world just became a happier, friendlier place. It sounds corny but goshdignit it’s true! This bus trip was no exception. A young black girl, she must have been about nine years old, had thick braids that Liron took an interest in. Liron reached out pulled one of those braids, relatively gently. The little girl turned around and played with Liron. She liked the attention and was very sweet to us. Her mom stood there too, smiling at us, making small talk. An older Chinese man smiled at her too.
The bus ride was just a short journey into a happy, warm, multicultural world. Liron and I were just ladies getting out there, and lucky to be a part of it.
But there’s a sucky part too.
That sweet little girl, upon seeing the older Chinese man smiling at Liron said out loud for all to hear “I don’t like Chinese people.” I told her “I’m sorry to hear that,” or “That’s too bad.” Something to that effect. What I meant was it was too bad that a sweet little girl like herself was already so aware of differences of culture and background and had already decided – well, had been taught – that some are good and some are bad. Her mother, a woman of considerable girth (okay, she had a nice muffin top), began bickering with a man standing beside her who kept bumping into her. He was semi-apologetic but it was a crowded bus and he really couldn’t help bumping into her. I’m sure he would have if he could have. This was just awkward. And disappointing really. It bothered me to that little girl with the braids might turn into her mom one day, picking on random people, rather than being the sweet and good-natured girl I first saw.
The ride home was cool. Okay, we were less social this time, but it did give me a chance to reflect on my role as a parent/role model. It’s a big/scary/fun thing, this parenting thing. Here I have this little girl who looks up to me and her ideas about the world are shaped in large part by what she sees and hears when she’s with me.
Now, this is Boston and we don’t have a clean history, or even present, when it comes to racism. This mother/daughter duo may very well have been exposed to others’ prejudices – it would not surprise me knowing how divided this city really still can be. (Sorry Boston, it’s true) Of course, two wrongs never make a right! What can I say? I just want all of our sweet little daughters and sons to be exposed to a beautiful world. Get on the bus people!