Sunday, March 03, 2013

Accessorizing baby

IN the train compartment, all eyes were on the young couple seated beside me.

They were cute: the young father who stood and gripped the hand
straps, standing protectively close to his seated wife and son, the
equally young mother who spoke softly to the infant she cradled, a
tiny, swaddled package that made no fuss despite the early hour.

The day was still young. Perhaps that was why we were all so
benificient, seated comfortably before the first wave of hordes and
lines descended and glutted the MRT.

Or perhaps it was being in the presence of this beautiful couple who
negated the horrific stereotypes of young parents, unplanned

When the seat beside his wife was vacated and she tugged at his shirt,
he chose to remain standing, signaling to a nearby woman to take the
seat instead. He carried a knapsack and held with his other hand a
bulky bag in baby blue that dangled pastel-colored plastic rings. It
could not have been easy for him as the MRT jolted on its course to
North Ave.

He didn’t betray any impatience when at the fourth station, the bundle
in her arms stirred and she tugged at his shirt again. I smiled at the
Morse code of signs with which they communicated their connubial
empathy. The other women in the compartment gave them smiles and nods
of benediction. A beautiful day, I thought before dozing off.

I woke up by some internal clock that alerted me that I was
approaching my station. When I glanced to my right, I saw two wide
eyes, ringed with long dark curling lashes, staring solemnly back. The
baby was every bit as cute as his mother, who smiled before turning
him in her arms and giving him the bottle.

I felt my smile dry up and crack.

They were still a beautiful trio but the morning had changed for me.

I saw the small dark head and her brown-tressed one dip close and
lock, the bottle of formula milk like the pin keeping these two rings
interlocked. On the pearly sheen of the bottle was the name of an
expensive brand that specialized in baby products.

The designer bottle made me see the perfect family in another way. I
noticed for the first time the branded baby bag, soft cotton preemies,
fleece blanket, cap, mittens and booties with the grinning, winking
fluffy puppy. And the cute teether the young father capped with a
crystal cover before returning to the bag—he even knew which
compartment it went in without asking her.

Although his parents were dressed in the shirt and denims that is the
universal uniform of the young, this baby's layette declared that his
parents wanted nothing but the best for him.

The milk bottle was part of the show, I suppose.

After the baby fed and his mother positioned him to burp over her
shoulder, our eyes met. She smiled and I wanted to ask her why she
stopped midway, compromised in her choice to give him the best.

And the young father whom I had thought wise beyond his years—all
because he was familiar with the contents of his baby's bag and knew
surely when to keep the teether and shake measured scoops of infant
formula into a bottle of distilled water, dissolve the powder
carefully before handing the bottle over to his smiling-eyed wife, all
while slinging a knapsack during an early morning MRT ride.

When I strode out of the station, I saw a gigantic billboard of Anne
C. Because of the display size, angle of my vision and distance
between street and billboard, it was hard not to physically stagger
from the weight of her immense breasts.

We blow up breasts to bigger than life size to sell tuna. We give
synthetic milk to a beautiful child who could have much, much more if
he could just suckle as much as he needs his mother's breasts. We
measure love by accessories. Tell me, where is civilization?

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Mar. 3, 2013 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday main op-ed column

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