They are already on the platform waiting for the C-train when I arrive.
He is maybe 6, 7 years old. Ninja backpack on his back. School is waiting. He’s excited to get there.
She is grandmotherly. Red coat. Black boots. Gloves. Matching purse. Her hair carefully coiffed, the metallic blonde of the dye fading at the roots.
He pulls his blue wool toque down around his ears, the rim just covering his eyebrows.
She pulls it back. Straightens it high against his brow.
He pulls it back down.
She gently slaps his hands away. Tells him it looks ridiculous like that and tugs it back into place. The place where she wants it to be.
His smile fades.
She turns to look for the train.
He pulls his toque back down to cover his eyebrows.
She turns back to look at him. Notices what he’s done. Tells him to stop being a nuisance. Tugs firmly and pulls his hat back into place. She smiles at him and says, “There. That’s better. Now leave it alone.”
His shoulders rise up and collapse downward in one fluid movement. He sighs. His hands swing by his side. He doesn’t touch his toque.
It is just a moment in time. A tiny vignette of a grandmother taking her grandson to school. Doing what she believes is her best. The right thing. The best thing she can do to prepare him for his day, and possibly teach him a lesson for life.
I wonder what message he got?
It wasn’t that her looks at him weren’t loving. They were.
It wasn’t that she didn’t have his best interests at heart. She did. I’m sure she loves her grandson to pieces. I’m sure she feels he was being a nuisance. That he needs to obey her, do what she says because that’s the only way he’s going to make it safely to school. If she let him wear his hat the way he wants, might he risk jumping the tracks? Might it lead to his mis-behaving in class, not following the rules, not doing what his teacher says?
You’ve got to obey your elders, I hear her saying in my head. Don’t be a nuisance.
And underneath the obvious concern for his well-being, what other messages were at play?
Don’t do it your way. Don’t colour outside the lines. Don’t think for yourself. You don’t count. You don’t matter. You don’t have the right to … speak up, do it differently, be individual. You don’t have a say. You don’t have a voice.
And for her what fears was she acting out? Did she need to keep control of every little detail so she could feel comforted by what she knows? Did she fear letting him have his way on this small thing would lead to his taking his own path on bigger things? Did she fear the path less travelled?
I don’t know what was going on in their minds or lives, but for me, the play enacted by this duo spoke deeply to my heart. It spoke deeply to that place within me where I want each and every one of us to honour the individual, to celebrate the different, to praise the uniqueness of our being who we are without fearing who we are is not enough.
It spoke deeply to that place within me where I feel powerless to awaken others to the importance of every small act we take with a child. That place where I want to go back and erase all the little things I did when my daughters were small that maybe didn’t celebrate the miracle of their lives because I was too busy to stop and see the gifts of their uniqueness, or too accustomed to taking the path I knew than to see there was a path less travelled that would awaken brilliance in our everyday lives.
It was a small moment with big ripples. A moment where I saw that for us to stop abuse, for us to end violence, for us to free children from living lives of desperation, we need to awaken to living fiercely in Love with this moment right now. We need to step into our power to do every small thing with love and compassion at the heart of every breath we take so that we no longer choose the path well-travelled and step fearlessly onto the path of Love.