Today was one of those days, that so many odd things happened, I suspected I might have entered a parallel universe. Luckily, I found Carnegie Road at some point, and got myself back home.
It all started with the man who was flirting with me over a big bag of Grub-Ex in Home Depot. He had no teeth.
But the best part of the day was a very strange -- somehow sacred -- moment at a gas station on the west side. I pulled up to the pump with 8 miles left in my tank, so I had to stop. The place was packed. One woman kept asking a worker if her granddaughter could use the bathroom, because she could not hold her poopie anymore. (The girl was about thirteen). "Tell the man, baby," the grandmother shouted, "Tell the man that your poopie's gonna come out."
Then, as I was pumping gas, a woman in a beat up station wagon said, "There's a mouse over there. Having babies." I just kept pumping as people gathered around this narrow area between the base of the pump and a column. The woman spoke again, "I don't want to move my car. She's just a mama after all. I don't want to surprise her." She pointed her tattooed arm back to the area, "You really should go look."
I smiled. Two boys walked over to the pump in front of me to fill up a huge 2 gallon plastic container. The grandmother who was yelling about the bathroom said, "You boys ain't gonna fill that up. You're not old enough to dispense gas." They shrugged, started walking away; everyone listens to the grandmother in the crowd. "But," she added, "you should go look at the mouse babies." They did.
By then, the station clerk, the Latina station wagon driver holding her own child, two boys and a man and women from the street were gathered around the birthing.
I had to go to see too.
And there she was, a mouse having babies. Six of them already out, her abdomen still filled with a couple more. Just hunched there, doing her thing, even with all of the commotion. I was sure someone was going to say something about killing the mother. Or killing the babies. After all, we are a mouse-fearing nation. Me included. But no one did, we all just stood there watching.
One of the boys asked, "Is she okay?" We all assured him that, yes, the mouse was just doing what mice do. "Are those babies okay?" We all nodded. "They don't look okay, they're so pink." We assured him again. He said, "Look at the way you can see their eyes, those black dots. It's so cool."
And it was. Cool.
This odd collection of people, strangers, marveling at birth. Standing guard to the mama. Amazed at the tiny eraser-colored babies. The way they unfolded and squirmed.
I have a friend who runs a llama and alpaca farm and she has seen dozens of crias born. I suspect she has helped a time or two. And I stayed at a ranch a few years ago a day after a baby calf was born. A bet most of you have had babies or watched your wife give birth. It's a foreign idea to me, really. But not, somehow too.
We all watch wide-eyed. We all hold our breath. Even when it's just a mouse, and the offspring we will one day grow to hate, trap. Be afraid of. Yes, even then.
We just can't help it; every baby amazes us. And so does every mama.