Trains, trams and buses. And the people. Oh my!
When I left my job in July, I also gave up my shiny new novated lease company car. And my folks’ place, where I’m staying, is a million miles from civilisation. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration… But I’ve affectionately dubbed it: “Suburbia-urbia-urbia”. It is far from my idea of what it means to live in Melbourne.
Its Spring here and the middle of the days are starting to be sunshine-y and pretty, putting a little strut in my walk. But the mornings and evenings are cold, and it’s still getting dark pretty early.
As I schlepped my achy infected ear from the train to the bus stop in chilly darkness, I needed a seat. At first, I was a little annoyed by a woman with two kids who’d parked a pram with one child in it in front of the available seats. I squeezed into a seat anyway. The little blonde boy was perhaps three years old with an angelic smile. The blonde girl in head-to-toe pink prancing around like a monkey was older, maybe five or six.
My initial impression of this mother with two kids was that she was foreign. She seemed to be speaking a language I couldn’t pick up. With my one good ear, I heard shrill yips erupt from her mouth – kind of like a cross between a yodel and a shriek, very unusual.
She was dressed a little oddly too, in an old-fashioned pale purple velvet jacket. Her hair looked dishevelled and her daughter’s was half in pigtails and half pulled out. The little boy was dressed warmly enough but I obnoxiously thought to myself – he could do with a hat and a blanket.
The children were energetic but didn’t say that much. Instead there were many facial expressions along with the mother’s unusual vocals. Then I noticed subtle hand movements between mother and daughter – the mother was deaf!
The bus lumbered in a few meters ahead of the stop. The little girl raced ahead of her mum and I took it upon myself to keep an eye on her whilst her mum manoeuvred the pram and settled on the bus.
In this time, the girl had climbed on a seat and grabbed hold of two hanging rings, swinging from them like play equipment. Several sharp trills erupted from her mum, with extensive body language ordering her to get down immediately!
The young girl seemed to relish the fact that her mother couldn’t control her as easily as she might if she wasn’t deaf. The child already knew she had freer reign and she took advantage of it. As her mother was getting the pram and the young boy on the bus, quick as a flash she vanished into the seats behind me.
Several yips and yodels later, the little girl was still hiding from her mum, causing her to leave the son where he was in his pram and physically grab her older child. I kept my eye on the boy whilst she retrieved her daughter who was crying about the unfairness of her life.
The mother had to use a certain level of physical force to show her daughter she meant business and keep her in her seat. Meanwhile, the young boy had started to cry a little, and only when he became a little desperate did he verbalise his cry: “Mummy”. Not that she heard him.
And I thought.
About words. Communication. How much we rely on them. Even if we mostly get each other wrong, hopelessly misunderstanding what others are saying to us… the words give us connection and comfort. The illusion we all see the world in the same way.
This woman had not one but two kids in a world she could only partially relate to. Her children before the age of ten could easily play tricks on her and make being a mother more trying than normal. It was clear that she loves her kids and that she disciplined them to the best of her ability.
Her daughter whilst still young not only knew sign language, but bore the knowledge her mother wasn’t “normal”. She was aware of those who would stare at the unusual sounds her mother made and although she didn’t seem to be embarrassed, she definitely took advantage of her mother in good natured rebellion.
This woman was so brave, I mused. She relies on Grace and the kindness of strangers whilst she does her best to bring up her kids the best way she knows how. One day, her children will know more than she ever will. But it hasn’t stopped her from doing what she can.
I silently saluted her as she went about her daily business.