Crocheted Baby Booties
Pregnant Mariana Rocha escapes the mid-August heat in a Toronto shoe store where she spots a rack of baby booties. They spark her fears and hopes. She is from Brazil. How will she raise a child in a country where she doesn’t know the nursery rhymes, the school system, the lullabies?
It’s mid-August—another scorching summer day. It must have been 40 degrees outside, plus humidity. The infamous “morning sickness” hit me like a ton of bricks, and I had no other choice but to lock up my bike and go indoors. I entered the first store I came across.
I stopped at a majestic staircase right at the entrance and sat down on the first step. With my head hanging low, I took a deep breath and started the labour breathing techniques I’d been practicing to calm myself down. “Reeeee-‐ laxxxxx.” Then a rather annoyed voice projected behind me.
“Ma’m, you can’t sit there.”
“I beg your pardon?” I replied.
“You can’t sit there,” the salesperson repeated. Then, dismissively, he pointed to the middle of the room, where there were dozens of seats available. Geez, how did I fail to notice that I was in a shoe store!
“Sorry,” I apologized, mustering up my best Canadian behaviour as I got up and went to sit on the closest chair.
Then my heart skipped a beat. Across from where I now sat, I spotted a rack full of familiar-looking, colourful baby booties. They were handmade, pure crocheted wool, with sheepskin lining and leather soles. The kind of slippers a grandmother would lovingly crochet for her grandkids. The same kind my Brazilian grandma had crocheted for my siblings and me long ago. Nostalgia filled me. I got up for a better look.
I held the red and grey ones in my hands. Although the label read “Made in Vancouver,” they felt very close to my Brazilian heart.
I’m having a Canadian baby.
A Canadian baby! I felt a chill running down my spine. My hands involuntarily hugged my swollen belly. Can I do this? I don’t know any Canadian nursery rhymes or Canadian children’s books. What about lullabies? Are there any TV characters that I should know about? What about the school system here! What if he refuses to speak Portuguese with me? The grandparents will hate me for that! What if he wants to play hockey? I know nothing about hockey except that practices are at 5 a.m.! What if…what if—“reee…laaaaxxxxx…”
Once my little niece banned my sister from entering a “Canadian Tire” store because she was not Canadian! How would I deal with that? I understand that my child, as a teenager, will undoubtedly mock my accent. And how will I feel when he rolls his eyes and sighs, “You don’t know anything.” He would probably be right.
Will I be able to help him with routine tasks, like homework or medical situations, for example? A child is supposed to look up to his mother for advice and guidance. What if I can’t provide him with that? Immigration was something that I’d brought on myself, but now I’ve inadvertently added this child into the equation. I felt like a newcomer all over again—confused and uncertain.
I’m a proud Canadian citizen. I’m also proud of my Brazilian heritage. If I try to imprint my values upon my baby, will it alienate him from his own?
Perhaps motherhood and being an immigrant are very similar. They are both a lifelong learning process and a status that one will hold forever. “Reeeee-‐laaaaxxxxx….”
“Are you okay, ma’am”? That same voice cut into my thoughts again.
“Yes, sure. Thanks,” I said. “I’m taking these.” On impulse, I held up the crocheted booties.
“Is that for your baby? Are you expecting? You know, you shouldn’t be riding your bike in this heat.”
That’s another thing about being pregnant that is like being an immigrant. You get a lot of unsolicited advice from strangers.
Now I’m thinking that for all the things I won’t be able to teach my son, there’s a whole other world of things that I will. For instance, Brazilians know about the heat…
MARIANA ROCHA left Brazil for Canada and lives in Toronto, where, with her sister, she owns and runs a coffee shop called The Last Drop.