I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.

Or maybe I did.

Either way, my Nosey Nancy self got herself a gift last week on vacation and my brain is still turning it over, examining it, chuckling over the wonder of it, and rationalizing my habit of bumping into things because I get too interested in observing people. (See! There are gifts that come with the bruises!)

A couple stops after I got on the metro, a mama and her two girls, ages maybe 4 and 8, stepped into the train. All the seats were taken, so they stood with me in the middle, holding onto the bar.

I couldn’t help but listen.

I love listening to kids because they’re fascinating and because in France my French is closer to theirs than to that of other human beings and they often speak slowly and use words that adults don’t use so much in common conversation that I still remember from our life there, like tu me fâches– you’re making me mad and ça suffit – that’s enough (which confuses my dog Rosie so much that she always stops whatever she’s doing, so it’s très helpful!) And I just find the sound of kids speaking French beautiful and entrancing. Want to see what I mean? Listen to this little girl here.

So back to my eavesdropping…

They got on the train and the littlest one was whining because she was tired and hungry and her maman had not picked her up a snack on the way and she wanted to sit down and there were no seats available and her legs WERE SO TIRED THAT THEY MIGHT FALL OFF HER BODY right there on the metro! The mama gently told her that it’s a busy time so the train was full of people but the next stop was a main one, so she was sure that seats would come open.

So I crossed my fingers for her as the train slowed for the next stop.

Sure enough, dozens of people poured out and there were two empty seats right by the doors! Her older sister grabbed one, and then just as  little tired girl was almost to it, a teenage boy wearing headphones popped through the subway doors right into the empty seat!

The girl let out a pitiful sob, melted into the subway floor, and started to cry.

“Now now,” the mommy said, standing her up.

“But that was my seat,” she said. “It was mine.”

“Sweetheart, no seat belongs to you. It’s perfectly normal what happened. There was an empty seat and he sat on it. Let’s play a game, why don’t we?”

“I don’t want to play a game. I want to sit in that seat.”

The subway stopped again and an old man in a beret got on and stood with us, holding the metal bar.

At the little girl’s quiet crying, the mom tried again. “Let’s play a game, why don’t we? At the next stop, what color will the benches be?”

“BLUE!” said the older sister, happily enjoying her subway seat.

“What color do you think, cherie?” Mommy asked the little sister.

“May I play?” asked the old man in the beret. Several other people looked up in surprise- I saw them- those rascals, pretending they weren’t eavesdropping too.

“Well of course, if you wish,” said the mom.

We all smiled at each other as the man rubbed his chin in thought. “I think orange,” said the man.

“And what about you?” Mommy asked the girl, stroking her hair.

“Red,” she said, wiping her eyes.

“Such anticipation!” said the old man. “I can hardly stand it!”

The little girl looked up at her mother, the corner of her mouth drawing into a smile.

The train slowed. Everyone in the train peered to look at the benches.

“Blue!” said the old man. “Very well done,” he said to the older daughter, tapping his cane on the floor of the train for emphasis.

“LET’S DO IT AGAIN!” the little girl piped up, grinning. “I’ll get it next time! It’s going to be red. I know it!”

I looked at the people in the seats. A half dozen adults were trying to keep their smiles to themselves.

The next stop was my stop. I’d have to get off the train.

Our car slowed and I saw them! Red seats, indeed! Hurray!

Maybe it takes a village to raise a child or maybe it doesn’t always, but it sure is more fun that way!

Blessings to you!


Thank you to Elvin for the flickr photo shared through Creative Commons!