Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Smile Game

I'm not yet a father, but here's a tale of me and a child for Father's Day:

The other evening while riding home on the train the seat in front of me was filled with two brown eyes and a pacifier; a little cutie who couldn't have been more than a year old stood on the seat (balanced by mom in the seat next to her) and she found me as fascinating as the world passing by out the window. Or perhaps she merely found facing toward me to be a more stable posture for her.

At that age obviously they have no grasp of social convention and don't balk at staring. And staring. And staring. There's a reason infants strike us as so adorable; otherwise they'd be annoying as heck.

So I smiled at her, and behind the pacifier I could see the corners of her mouth curl up in a smile. I did this with her as long as I could feel comfortable with engaging in a staring contest with a stranger's child (so I wouldn't cross over into creepy territory), then glanced down at my iPod or out the window, and her mom or slightly older sister would point her toward the window. However, it would only be a matter of time until she was facing me again, and we'd play the smile game again. Then we'd all take a window break.

Then there came a point where I glanced away after another round of smile game, and she reached her little hand over the back of the seat and touched my hand, as a clear signal that she wanted me to resume paying attention to her. So we played the smile game a little more. Not long after her family reached their stop and all exited, and I watched them walk out the door, without my new friend looking at me. I imagine I was already out of her mind, but obviously she stuck in mine.

For all of our vaunted intellect and all the marvels that our power to think has done to keep our species contented, it's still kind of sad to realize there was a time when we needed nothing more than a friendly face smiling back at us to fill us with joy, where there was absolutely nothing else we wanted in that moment, and that once we develop our brains we will never be so easily contented.

Life is really nothing but going downhill once we're out of diapers.

1 comment:

So, what do you think?