Dear Mothers of the El,

I have headphones on, of course. And you’re right, usually I’m listening to music.

Loud music, more often than not.

But sometimes, when I see you step on the train, little ones in tow, on your hip, I turn my music off.

It’s partly because I’m curious, I suppose. Not many children ride the cta, at least not during the hours of my commute, and so see a child, or maybe even two, swinging their short legs in the space between seat and floor, always catches my eye.

I’m curious, yes, but also empathetic. Just like all those around us in this florescent-lit train car, you’ve a story that stretches well beyond the tiny clues and haphazard guesses I can venture as I sit across the aisle from you.

You and your little ones are coming from somewhere, going to somewhere, and as I listen to snippets of the words you share with your children, I find myself cheering for you. I feel my heart softening, a smile fighting to spread across my lips.

When you get on the train and I recognize your cropped hair, small frame, long coat from a late-night train ride last week, but then my eyes land on the child stepping beside you, her jeans tucked into worn boots, I want to greet you, smile at you, even though you don’t know me.

As she tells you about the time her grandpa let her taste coffee, and you sip your own drink (it’s espresso, you tell your daughter) and strategize about how you might tackle all the tasks awaiting you at home, I support you, I want to encourage you, even though we’ve never spoken.

When you step off the train into the dark, and her little steps echo yours down the concrete steps to the street below, I wish you well, even as your jackets disappear from view and the train I’m still on pulls out of the station once more.

When you get on the train downtown, and your child’s screams shatter the hum of silence that rush-hour commuters always seem to create, I watch for a moment as the seats on either side of you vacate.

We pass two stops, and then I move, sitting there between a woman with headphones on, identical to my own, and the screaming, flailing infant draped across your arm. I catch your gaze as I sit, and offer a smile, as if with one friendly nod of my head I could tell you that we don’t judge you, aren’t angry with you, don’t hold you responsible for the noise of the tiny, opinionated human in your lap.

When the train rushes through stops, moving on the express track out of the city, and you rub the child’s belly, pat her back, whisper to her, and she quiets, becomes still, I want to tell you that you’re patient, gentle, brave. You’re doing what you do well, and the baby, now laying quietly against your chest, her eyes roaming the packed train car, she knows you love her.

I want to say these things, and more, too, but I don’t know you and I don’t quite know how, so I nod, smile, sometimes speak, a little, and I hope you know that I am rooting for you, hoping for you, cheering for you, and praying for you, too.

~Natalia

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Grandma S.
    Oct 11, 2014 @ 07:41:51

    I liked it all except the second paragraph. If you value your hearing, DO NOT play loud music directly into your ears. Grandma says.

    Reply

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