It's going to be a year since we all had to go through all this, and some of the time I've been wondering about babies.
They're growing up in times different from us. We were able to go out. They aren't. I highly doubt they've been in a mall. Then again, despite the ban on under-18's to visit malls, I have seen little kids on there, and nobody seems to care, as is standard. But then, people seem to care more about babies than slightly older children.
But then, I have been around babies and toddlers in the past year. I've seen Shalla's nephew and niece, and they seem fine. What apparently is different between them and us is how they associate wearing masks with going out. They did know a world before a pandemic - okay, her nephew does, as he's turning three years old in a week, and he always like it when he leaves the house. Like, whenever I visit, he'd ask me (however babies do it) to carry him outside, and we'd just look at the trees and dogs and streamers, and we'd talk (however babies do it) until he inevitably falls asleep in my arms, in which case I come rushing back home to his mother. "Inaantok na!"
Now, when they're asked to wear their face masks, it's very definite they're going outside. You see a hint of glee in their faces.
I've also been thinking about whether they can still recognize faces, especially the ones who were born around the time of the pandemic. Two of my cousins have had children either just before, or smack in the middle of, the lockdowns. They may be able to recognize their parents' faces, but they most likely have not seen anybody else, and if they have, they're only seeing half of their faces, and fleetingly. (I mean, there have been no family reunions, which has been great, as I am not as exposed to the toxic masculinity that unfortunately runs through my family tree.)
But then, I remember that babies don't really have to see the whole face. They just have to feel at ease. I remember the son of one of Shalla's former colleagues. They call him Raphael, but we call him Wap-wap, and in the few times we've met - three times? - we've spent a lot of time together. Shalla thinks it's because of my small eyes, and how to babies it always looks like I'm smiling at them. (Good heavens, all this time I can smize? Monicuh, it's finally working!)
One time we were early at a McDonald's branch with difficult parking. It was Wap-wap's baptism, and we went straight to the reception. (Post-event gathering, whatever.) He was apparently the whole morning, but when he got to the function room and locked eyes with me, he brightened up and grinned. To me, it was a privilege. He only really interacted with one of his grandfathers and me, apart from his immediate family.
That was roughly three years ago, though. Maybe four. I guess he's forgotten about me.
A few days ago, while in like outside McDonald's, I saw a couple walking a dog. More of, kind of dragging the dog; the leash was shorter than it should be. Of course, his owners had masks and face shields on, and I started to think if the dog is able to recognize other people underneath all that.
I mean, he doesn't have to. (She? I don't know whether the dog is male or female, for there was a diaper.) But remember back in the old days, at the more upscale and pet-friendly malls, when you could pet a dog for as long as the owner consented? The dog would probably have a sense if you're nice or not, unless he wasn't nice to begin with, and has a tendency to growl, or worse, bite at strangers. Now, there is no gauge of whether the stranger is a threat or not. All instincts.
Then again, the dog was... damn, I'm not sure what the breed's name is. I do know it most definitely is named Chewy. They all are.