“Hold on to him,” called out a warm voice.
I turned around clumsily, trying to balance the weight of my almost-four-year-old son in my arms. I had just alighted from a cab and Hubby was piling up our bags on the airport trolley. It was a magnificent day – the sun was shining softly and a cool breeze was flowing effortlessly.
“Hold on to him.” I heard her say again and, this time, I saw her. She was a smart-looking middle-aged woman and she was talking to me. We smiled at each other.
I’m usually not one to carry kids, but I do make an exception once in a while. My little boy had spent the better part of his day in his stroller, which we had pushed for kilometres trying to catch every sight of the beautiful town of Niagara. His body had become supple and malleable with slumber. So, I had picked him up.
“You know how they all need a few hugs some times,” I smiled back.
“Yeah, they do! But this will last only so long. He’ll grow up and pull himself away,” she said with warmth. There was not an iota of melancholy in her voice or facial expression. Surely, this story had a sweet ending.
“That really happens?” I was curious.
“Oh, wait until he’s a teenager. Mine would just not let me around him when he was about 15.” There was something about her that was drawing me to her. I wanted this conversation to continue. Her warmth was contagious.
“Wow! Really?” I heard myself say. We were already standing together, like people who knew each other for a long time.
“But they come around. He is 22 now and I get a kiss from him every day.”
I smiled. I wanted to steal her effervescent smile and make it mine.
“So, hold on to him while it lasts.”
My heart found its feet again. I grinned again; only this time, I was reminded of my teenage-self and how I thought my folks ‘didn’t know anything’. I had come around too, albeit in my late twenties.
I hadn’t realised that we were already walking together, physically and metaphorically. We were two women – both mothers – from different generations and cultures, linked by an invisible bond. I saw Hubby waiting for me at the gate. I looked at her and she nodded. I smiled and started walking faster. At the gate, I turned around, waved at her and said the customary ‘Have a nice day’. She waved back. I entered the airport to board the flight that would take us to New York, a melting pot of cultures.
That was the last time I ever saw her. Our interaction had lasted a minute or so, but it had given me the opportunity to partake in the wisdom of a seasoned mother.
I’m glad that I had an opportunity to experience a culture where people lack inhibition in talking to strangers. Now I know that regardless of who we are and where we come from, some things don’t change.