Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Big Brother is ALWAYS Watching

I was in the produce department at Safeway when I saw a small uproar down at the end of the aisle. A handful of women gathered around a grocery cart in which reposed an infant. She was swaddled in pink and attended by her mother, who basked in the glow of appreciation for the beauty and perfection of her newborn, expressed by the women who'd apparently been attracted by new-mother pheromones or perhaps the smell of formula.

Well beyond that age when babies caused my hormones to scamper, I was about to drive on past when I saw him, drooping outside the stage lights, his eyes pools of abandonment as he waited for his mother to recover from post-partum notoriety and finish the shopping, so he could go home to his Legos. He was about four and every bit of the self-esteem that had ever been in him had been sucked out by the squirming alien in the pink blankie, who'd clearly brainwashed all the adults on the rock.

I was equally ignored by the squealing, cooing herd, so I squatted next to the boy and nodded toward his mom. "She told you yet what an important job you have?"

Surprised by this unwarranted attention, he shook his head, watching me, probably figuring any second I'd spring up and hand the new baby the keys to a car or something.

"Well, you know you're the big brother, don't you?" He nodded, so I went on, warming to my subject. "Why, that's about the most important job in the universe. That baby over there only showed up because there was already a big brother in place to take care of her. Fine babies like that one don't just get dropped into a family without a very important and capable big brother around to make sure she stays out of trouble. Besides, no matter what she does, no matter how many people thinks she's special, she's never, ever going to be anything but your. Little. Sister."

He seemed to stand a little straighter, looked a little bit proud, putting a possessive hand on the cart as a grin broke out on his face.

"She a pretty good baby?" I asked.

"Yeah, she's OK," he replied, with an almost geriatric sigh, leaning toward me to whisper, "But I looked and she ain't got no winkie."

"Figures," I said, grinning in return, tossing a head of lettuce in my cart as I ambled away.