The Kid Who Knew Too Much

This may be the saddest and most glorious thing I’ve ever seen.

I’ve just gotten off the L train at Grand Street. As I run through the turnstiles and begin climbing the stairs, I see a mother carrying her child 10 steps above me. What caught my eye was the way she was doing it. She was carrying this boy in his stroller. I’m sure you’ve seen moms in the subway do this, but not the same way this mom was doing it.

This mom was holding the stroller parallel to the ground, hard against her stomach. It was an umbrella style stroller, meaning it was relatively light. (As opposed to those huge baby carriages for newborns. Try lugging that thing on a subway some time.) Even so, the ease with which she scaled the stairs while holding this thing so tightly against her body was amazing. She had the grit and determination of The Mom Alone. I need to get out of this station so I can catch the bus, because if I miss the bus I will not get to X on time and I will be screwed.

But the real kicker was the kid. He looked to be three years old, maybe four at the oldest. His head stuck out from his mother’s side at a right angle, as if he’d been screwed into place. And the look on his face was not one of fear, as he probably should have had, or one of kiddish “whee!”-type excitement, as some kids might.

His expression was one of resignation. Not sad, just a look of guess we’re doing this now. A look far too world weary and wan for a three year old. It was chilling in some ways, and in others hilarious, almost admirable. A child who had no illusions about what to expect from this world, who had no illusions to shatter. He knew at any moment, he would be hoisted aloft, hovered two feet above the ground, placed flat against his mother’s stomach, perpendicular to her, and then finally placed on the pavement when back in the light of day.

Part of me wanted to catch up to them and offer help. But the mom was too fast and already at the surface before I could get close. And anyway, what kind of help could I really offer? Maybe this kid had already figured it all out.