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8/10/09 Baby 'Twixt My Knees

Explanation on the dates: As I was doing some digital housecleaning, I found a bunch of old, half-written blogs. I'm finishing and posting them, but maintaining the original dates. Sorry for any confusion.


I'm sitting on a bus, as I have been for countless hours. Like most Moroccan buses, this one rides a good six or eight feet high (leaving huge storage spaces underneath) and has both a front and a back door. I'm sitting right behind the back door, behind the railing of the back staircase.

The door opens, and a family clambers on: a dad, a mom, another woman (probably her sister), and assorted children.

The bus is already crowded, with bodies in every seat and several in the aisle. (It's illegal for buses to carry more passengers than seats, but gendarmes can easily be convinced to look the other way. - cough $$ cough - )

The family members look around and decide that their best option is the stairwell itself. Two girls on the stairs; the three adults stand by the door. One of the women has a baby strapped to her back; the other holds a toddler.

When the toddler starts to fidget, the mom's friend? sister? helps her unstrap the child, slung papoose style along her spine. With little more than a glance at me or my American buddy sitting next to me, she plops the kid on the floor of the bus, which is shoulder-high to her, but at my feet. Still not looking at my face, she wedges the child between my knees so he's in no real danger of plunging over the edge of the unguarded stair well, then turns back to her husband.

Reflecting on the "It takes a village" attitude I've previously noted with Moroccan child care, I accept that the munchkin is now my responsibility. Watching his mom for approval - though she has yet to make eye contact with me - I wrap an arm around him to hold him steady.

A few minutes later, the dad, who speaks some English, strikes up a conversation with my buddy. I chime in, and soon the three of us are chattering away about Peace Corps and environmental protection and suchlike...all with his son perched between my knees.

When we get to their stop, which isn't far, the mom reaches over to get her child; her friend helps her secure the toddler to her back, and they're ready to go. The woman finally looks me in the eye, to say thank you and goodbye. I smile, tell her it was my pleasure, and grin at her surprise in hearing tarumit speak Tamazight.

What was most remarkable to me was how blase everyone else was. Oh, sure, hand your child to a stranger for the next half hour. It's all good.

...and it was. :)

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