It was ages since I was last in the company of children. It was one thing to observe them from afar, in the shopping malls or passing by on the streets. It was a whole new experience to be amongst both children as well as adults in a playground, surrounded by laughter and screams and the chatter of both the children and their caretakers, whether they were the parents or some other adult designated to watch over them during their playtime.
I remember my years as a teacher in both kindergartens and child-care centers. The children were everywhere. There was mischief and disobedience but there was also interest in the work at hand and capturing their attention as you read them a story. The children loved listening to the stories. And although I wasn't a master story-teller, ever the self-conscious one, it was still part of the job and something I had to do. And at least they were quiet then.
I had actually forgotten what it was like to be in the company of children. The playground wasn't their home and it wasn't their school. It was a time for fun and adventure. At the beginning, I was a little unnerved by the noise, having forgotten - only for a moment - how rowdy children could be even in a public place. Then it slowly grew on me and I was reminded of the times that I had spent with the young children under my care. How soon we forget.
There is an especially fond memory of a group of Japanese children, bright and intelligent and full of mischief. They'd even asked if they could call me at home and when I sought the advice of the teacher I was assisting - who was also the owner of the kindergarten - she said that it was perfectly all right to do so. She had also been asked but she wouldn't give hers out as she would be answering calls from the children all day. I was only an assistant, I suppose, and the calls wouldn't be that frequent. I did give out my number to a few and one little boy called and said, "Moshi moshi," over the telephone one day. It caught me off-guard for a moment until I realised it was hello. True enough, I had hardly any calls. But I just thought it was nice.
There were children and adults of all ages at the playground. And because I myself was a woman, my attention almost always focused on mothers with their children especially mothers with their young daughters. That was always interesting to watch and observe. And I found myself again wondering what I was missing. Boys were different, of course, but just as intriguing. And it was wasn't only my eyes and mind that registered everything. The heart, too, registered all that I saw and wondered about. I was again an onlooker instead of a participant. I'd always known that I was somewhat of an observer during my younger days, watching from the sidelines instead of letting go and diving in head first. I didn't know how to dive. And I was afraid of jumping over the hurdles. So I kept watching from the sidelines, telling myself how good I was at observing.
But now I wanted to take part. I wanted to participate. I wanted children of my own.
It didn't seem to be part of the journey. And why not? And I realised I was going through all these emotions mostly because I had chosen the vocation of marriage. What if I had remained single? But I didn't. I made my choice. But still I wonder. What about? About all kinds of things. The mind can wander to all sorts of places, whether it should go there or not.
And for now, even if I couldn't live out that fantasy of motherhood, I could always write about it. Is that what I'm destined to do? Observe even more and write about my observations, never to experience what those mothers and fathers experienced on that playground?
I remember my time with the children at the kindergarten. I was younger then. It was my job. Motherhood is a full-time job, sometimes thankless but always rewarding. Or is it always thankless but sometimes rewarding? Every mother is different just as every child is different. I obviously don't have all the answers but I know what I saw. A young girl of seven calling out to her mother to watch her while she played on the bars. The same young girl going over to her mother, holding on to her arm, and being held in return. And it was even lovely to listen in on the mother's conversations with her young daughter. They knew and understood one another. They were close to one another. There was a love and a bond. There is that bond that they talk about. I was a young daughter once so I remember. That bond was never severed, not even when I was older and moved away. No doubt there were a lot of mixed emotions and careless words were said over the years. But the bond remains.
I tell myself that I can always write about it. There is some consolation in that. Some. Writing about it is a kind of soothing balm. And it is only temporary. The walls break down especially when one comes across a parent and child in an unforgettable (in my mind) moment. I grew up with four brothers and boys have a special place in my heart, I admit. But I like watching mothers and daughters for I am a daughter, a daughter who is now grown up and older and wonders what it would be like to be a mother.
The eyes see all that they see and the mind absorbs all the information that it can gather. The heart, well, the heart is an entirely different story altogether.