Of kids and dolls
Dolls of old
When I was a young mother I belonged to the generation that chose not to impose too strongly the symbols of gender on to our children. My son had his share of cars, firefighter trucks, cowboy hats and other toys for little boys, but I also on purpose gave him a doll, a black baby boy called Balthazar.
I miss those years, I miss my little boy that became a big man, and I miss Balthazar, the baby black doll, together with Pascal, the blue rabbit, Nounours, the brown teddy bear, and old white and black Snoopy, that existed in two avatars because the first one tragically got lost but this is another story.
I don't remember that my son played much with Balthazar. His absolute favorite was Snoopy, a total mystery to me because he was too young to read comics and I don't remember that there were films about Snoopy, I will have to ask him. About Balthazar, I kept in the back of my mind a tenuous but lingering guilt of not having actively promoted the function of the baby boy doll as a son or something, I don't know.
Today I discovered that I had lacked imagination and maybe even courage. Or the courage of imagination.
A morning in the park
Today we were sitting under the trees of our neighborhood park, close to the bronze statue of a Dough Boy surrounded by wreaths of plastic flowers, the hommage of the Columbus Knights to the poor youngsters that perished during the First World War. Around us, the usual peaceful mixture of human races that is the happy characteristic of this part of the country. Tibetans and Irish, Coreans and your everyday Americans ... such nice gathering, like a prophecy of the golden age.
Some people were basking in the sun, a rarity in this grey Summer of 2009 in the East Coast. Others, like us, were reading, or just contemplating the light, the green of trees and bushes, the pigeons and European starlings going about their business, and some families passing by with kids mostly running those killer scooters that make them sometimes crash dangerously close to cars in motion.
We were starting to think that it was time to abandon the idyllic surroundings to go grab some lunch, when all the sudden a group of people appeared: two young women and four children.
The women looked like sisters and it was difficult to know if the kids were the children of one of them, the other being the auntie, or maybe half and half ... They appeared to be a happy bunch. The two women were chatting away and laughing softly among themselves while the children were playing. They seemed very busy, going up and down the small plaza inside the park. Actually they looked like ... busy parents.
It took me some seconds to realize that. That they looked like busy parents. When I saw it I just couldn't believe my eyes. So I looked again, trying to confirm what I had seen. And yes, they were carrying, each of them, a stroller with some stuffed being inside. It was not easy to clarify the matter because they didn't stop their zig-zagging around the plaza but I finally was pretty sure that the oldest girl had a stroller with a pink teddy bear, the older boy had a large stroller with an enormous white dog, the youngest girl had a small stroller with a beige teddy bear, while the diminute youngest boy had a tiny stroller with a blonde doll wearing jeans.
Those inanimate beings were obviously the kid's children. Not only the girls' children, also the boys'. The older girl --all of six years old she looked-- even stopped to give some water from the water fountain to her bear son. I was in awe, not in my wildest imagination I could've foreseen such a progressive bunch of people. I thought, wow, these young women are obviously quite radical feminists, I didn't even know that they still existed.
Besides, I could've taken it as a less extraordinary occurrence had they been, you know, yuppies from California or some such. But no, they were native Mexicans that might've even jumped the wall ... the daughters of one of the quintessential machista societies of this world. So I walked to them and made some jokes about the bears and dolls being naughty and then commented ... "Well, I can see that every one of them has a child". "Oh yes", one of the young women replied, "better like that, every one their own, otherwise they fight too much" ...
I was somehow disappointed. Had I expected some feminist manifesto? I guess. But then I thought, "Well, I suppose that's it, we definitely won this battle, now they allow mexican boys to play with dolls without having to give reasons ... this is really the beginning of the golden age" ...
Anyway, finally I knew why my son had not played much with Balthazar. That poor doll didn't have a vehicle for him to take it to the park.