In the grocery store checkout line, the folks behind my shopping cart, facing Roan in his car seat, get all wide-eyed and full of expression; turn to their companions and smile a comment; then look back and play peek-a-boo with a baby whom they've only just met (unofficially).
It helps that Roan is exceedingly friendly and free with his smiles. But it works with newborns, too: "Look at the baby, sweetie," say the mothers, with cheer and nostalgia, to their little girls.
A baby is a bridge between people; a universal commonality; a bond.
So when I notice people ooing and awing over Roan in a waiting room, I give him to them. I've got nowhere to go, nothing to do. I'm going to be there for a while yet. And I have absolutely no fear for my child: their admiration for him is saturating, and I'm right there if he needs me.
It might start a casual but human conversation; there's no talk of Great Things or Deep Confessions, just a connection that wasn't there before. Two or three people being real with each other. But more often than not, they hold the baby for a few minutes; gather sustenance from those chubby legs; and hand him back with a smile of authenticity otherwise absent in a stranger.
It was in one of those waiting rooms that an older hispanic man, with a sun-browned, worn, and kindly face, kept looking at us--at Roan--and looked away again before we could make eye contact. (We're taught it's rude to stare. To so pertinently engage somebody and be present to that person in that infinite moment. It's a violation, because we are all of us hiding from ourselves.) I don't know how, but I knew this man needed to hold Roan. So I stood up and walked over, offering up my baby.
He accepted him eagerly, openly, with the tender affection of a grandfather. He knew no English to speak to me but held my five-month-old son in his arms and murmured to him in Spanish. Just a few minutes. They bonded, and he gave Roan back, eyes crinkled in a gratitude that will humble me for years to come.