So I'm sitting in the waiting area at the car repair shop recently, and the grubby guy behind the counter stands up and intently heads right towards me. Right when I think he's about to take a swing at me (out of some Vietnam flashback where he's mistaken me for charlie), his hand darts out from behind his back and he puts a baby bib in front of my face. The baby bib reads, "Mud Flap." Oh. Heart-attack-man is sweet on my baby girl. He then gently begins to reminisce when his little boy was the size of Avi and how fast the time has gone, and before you know it, she'll be poppin' out babies of her own and then you're a grandpa.
A couple of days ago, Maren and I are in jamba juice, and the love child of Fabio and Bob Marley walks in with his mini-entourage. Before I know it, he's showing us iPhone pictures of his 6 month old girl. While his cohorts are pushing his salon biz. cards in our hands, he too reminisces about the quick passing of infancy and advises us to cherish this stage in Avi's life.
This kind of thing happens all the time. People-- parents-- from every walk of life, any size, shape, color, background, temperament, whether stranger, acquaintance, or friend, will stop us, gaze on Avi, and longingly talk about when their child was this small. They'll share story after story of their babies' sleep habits, wake habits, poop habits, burb habits, etc., as well as all of the tried and true tips. And it hit me not too long ago that I relate to this wide (and often weird) assortment of humanity in a very profound way. They've experienced what we're experiencing. Even people who I've known before-- I'm finding that I'm now seeing many of them differently. Whereas I used to regard them as individuals who had kids, I now see them as Parents (captial P) who've been in the trenches.
And the looks. We walk down the aisle in the grocery store, a woman gives one of those looks in Avi's direction, and you can decipher years in that one glance. She's remembering her own child, now in her twenties, or her teens, or his tweens, or maybe only months (it's amazing how differently babies change in a matter of weeks). I read those looks all the time. Last week, the thrift store lady firmly demanded that I show her my baby (I had been experiencing baby-display fatigue and tried to duck out of the store quickly; I even had Avi in a camoflauged, covered sling, and this woman with baby-radar still detected her). I relented, and soon, a small gathering of gawking admirers formed around me (well, around Avi to be more precise. I'm not that hot). I knew instantly who among them were parents and who were not, based on The Look. It's usually only parents, typically moms, who express this Look, and my ability to discern the look meant that I had become one of Them. (More on The Look in an upcoming post). I had joined their club, which in some ways resembles a kind of cult-- with baby as cult leader who persuasively dictates most of what we do and when we can do it, all the while accepting our constant adoration. Yes, we'll gladly drink the Kool-Aid. We'll even make popsicles out of it.