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Babies and Strollers

By Larry Gross · August 13th, 2008 · Living Out Loud
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I live in Westwood these days but still find myself downtown often. On this particular Friday afternoon, I'm on a No. 6 bus heading in that direction.

The bus goes down Queen City Avenue toward Fairmount. I can't help but notice some of the people who get on, especially the women with strollers.

They lift those strollers up over the bus steps with their babies inside. Some of the babies are crying, some are quiet, some are asleep.

On this late Friday afternoon, I count seven strollers. I'm thinking this is the most I've seen at any one time.

I get downtown and, when I enter Madonna's on Seventh Street, it's fairly crowded. Ginger is bartending.

She's in the third trimester of her pregnancy.

I think pregnant women have a glow about them. That's certainly the case with Ginger. This tall blonde has never looked more beautiful.

Playing pool are a couple guys I've never seen before. One of them, a tall young man wearing a plaid shirt and dark colored shorts, comes over to the bar to get another Budweiser.

"How ya doing?" he says to me. He's a large man with short red hair.

"I'm good," I reply. "How you doing?"

"Got a lot on my mind," he says. "Got my ex-girlfriend pregnant, and she don't want to keep the baby."

"Really," I say, feeling amazed he's sharing this information with a stranger.

"Yeah," he says. "She wants to have an abortion, but I want her to keep it. I wanta be a dad."

Ginger brings his beer over, and he takes a sip from the bottle.

"She has two other kids," he says after his sip, licking his lips. "You'd think she'd want a third kid just to get that extra welfare check."

The young man goes back over to the pool table, and I take a drink of my vodka and tonic. I find myself wondering how good a father he'd be.

The bar traffic slows down a little, and I talk with Ginger. I ask how she's feeling. She tells me she's having Braxton Hicks contractions several times a day. I ask if they hurt, and she says no -- just a bit uncomfortable. I tell her it's good training for the real thing that will be happening in only a few weeks.

I order another drink, then step outside for a cigarette. As I stand there smoking, I can't help but notice how many women with strollers go by on the sidewalk. I'm wondering why this is my new preoccupation.

When I go back into Madonna's, Ginger has refilled my glass. There's a basket of potato chips next to it. Standing there is the young man with the short red hair, leaning on his cue stick ordering another Bud.

I think he's drunk now. He's telling me how he wants to die.

"I don't want to die eating potato soup left over in the kitchen," he says. "I want to die eating a good meal or dancing."

"Fine by me," I say, taking a few chips from the basket.

After telling me he'll probably be in jail soon because of unpaid traffic tickets, the young man goes back to his game of pool.

As I sit at the bar, I'm starting to figure out why his ex-girlfriend isn't interested in having his baby.

I finish my second drink and tell myself to stop eating the chips. I settle my tab with Ginger, thinking I need to get in to see her more because she plans to take some time off after the baby arrives. I can just tell she's going to be a great mother.

I'm back on the bus leaving downtown and heading up Queen City Avenue. A young woman with a stroller and her baby get on. The baby is crying loudly.

The woman pays the fare while screaming at the baby. She rolls the stroller to the back of the bus, continuing to yell and curse at the infant.

I get home and have potato soup for dinner. The guy playing pool at Madonna's got me thinking about it. It's not a leftover, but it is from a can.

As I eat my soup, I think of babies and strollers. Questions go through my mind.

Those women on the bus with little babies being rolled around in strollers: How many of the kids are really wanted? How many of them are in this world simply so the mother can get a government check? How many of the mothers are married or have the father of their babies living with them?

Is it better to let a child die -- to have an abortion -- than to let it live and be unwanted and unloved?

When thinking of the immature guy playing pool at Madonna's who wants his ex-girlfriend to have their baby, I wonder if he really wants to be a father or if he just likes the idea of it.

I don't have any answers as I prepare for bed.

When I get into bed, I find myself staring at a picture frame sitting on my nightstand. Inside it is a photo of my daughter and son taken when they were very little.

I smile before turning off the light. With memories of my own children as babies, I close my eyes and go to sleep.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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