Melanie and I went out for a little outing this afternoon in Salem’s historic Derby Street neighborhood. The sun was shining and while there is a strong breeze, it’s relatively warm.
And since Isabella is getting very good at toddling around and loves being outdoors, we let her walk along the sidewalk on her own. Of course, we stayed close to keep her from wandering into the street or getting in the way of the occasional passer-by.
Something we both noticed is how people ignore her. Now, we’re not those parents who think everyone should go ga-ga over their baby. That’s not what I’m referring to. What I mean is that of all the people who walked by, young and old, male and female, locals and tourists, only a couple even acknowledged Isabella. (And one of those was a creepy dude who got my Spidey-sense tingling.)
Isabella loves people and she looked expectantly at each person, trying to make eye contact and smiling at each one. Yet nearly all of them treated her like a fire hydrant, just stepping briskly around her without a glance or even a smile.
I know that when I’ve been out places, even before I was a father, and encountered kids, I would at least smile. As a guy I felt awkward interacting with strangers’ kids, but at the very least I’d smile or say hello and go on my way. But most folks didn’t even do that.
I suppose it might be a New England thing, but I have a feeling it’s just another symptom of a culture that no longer values children or even sees them as all that special, despite all the rhetoric you hear from politicians and pundits that this or that policy or law must be implemented “for the children.”
It’s a sad, cold world that can’t muster up a smile for happy child on a sunny spring day.