I read somewhere that if you’re drowsy after eating, then you are probably eating too much. I said as much to Mai and she gave me that look. Made a note to find an alternative method of dealing with my need for sleep, i.e. the going for a long walk.
So I settled down just under the overhang of the little Japanese-style house in the middle of the garden that looks out over one of the lake/ponds and started on my book. I had probably been reading for 20 minutes or so when a smallish child, (I might hazard a guess towards 1.5 to 2 years), half stumbled, half walked to the edge of said lake.
Usually there aren’t too many children at the gardens, mostly, I’m sure, because there’s not much there that a child might want to see. But today, there was a wedding in the far corner and so I assumed that this one had simply wandered away. I kept half an eye on her, expecting a parent to swoop down at any moment and take her away, but none came and, after a few more minutes, she began to creep a little too close to the ponds edge for my comfort, even trying her best to climb on to the little rock border surrounding it.
Being a good citizen (yeah.), I called out to her, asking where her mother was, not expecting her to answer, but rather, for said mother to speak up from some where currently out of my sight but within sight of the baby.
The kid turned, and smiling at me, stumbled over to where I was sitting and sat down ker-plunk right next to me.
My answer was a very eloquent, “Uh-huh.”
Now this is a child, who is not even old enough to walk well, still wearing a diaper and able to do that thing where she is sitting, but is still standing flat-footed at the same time and there is no parent in sight.
I wanted to call the police.
But I didn’t. I went back to trying to focus on my book, figuring that as long as the kid stayed put, she was relatively safe. Eventually, I caught her squinting and so sat her on the other side of me so that I was blocking most of the sun and she snuggled down on my leg and went to sleep.
When a parent finally showed up more than 45 minutes later, the child was still napping, tucked under my jacket (her little dress was too short and I was afraid that her legs would get cold).
The woman barely spoke English, and I know piddling French, but somehow we managed to work out that she was with the wedding party and that the baby girl was hers and that it is perfectly natural for French children to be allowed to wander about and learn, something I didn’t believe then and still don’t believe now, and thank you for keeping an eye on her (as if I were the sitter).
I don’t know how I feel, exactly. There are two things in the world that I have an innate distrust of, children and dogs, but somehow, I did not want to give this one back.
Maybe I just didn’t want to give her back to any woman who would allow her child to wander, alone, in a foreign country. Maybe I just like quite children and until today had not met one. I don’t know. But I am intrigued.