As she approached, I realized who she was—the girl from a birthday bonfire. She and I agreed through a Facebook group message to help our friend prepare for Burning Man by testing their shade structure. She and Chris were crying materials over to the spot we found at the panhandle. I grimaced upon recognition. I helped everyone move things into place. Then we paused as we took a break from the moving. “Hi, my name—” she said and stretched out her hand.
“We met earlier,” I said and then the words slipped out. “No babies.”
“Yes,” I said and could not stop. “That’s what I remember the most about you. You don’t like babies.”
“Oh you mean having them? That’s a weird thing to remember”
“Yes…” I said and shifted the subject. “Hey, how shall we get started?”
But the slight bitterness stayed with me as I recalled her criticism of people having kids. We were talking about a mutual friend who couldn’t make it because she gave birth recently. “Why would you want to lose your freedom?” she said aloud to nobody in particular. “You can’t travel. I don’t think that it’s good. I can’t believe that they decided to have them. I love my life and think that other people shouldn’t have to give that up.”
I was silent then at first. “People change and want different things,” I mused, but I could feel a twist inside.
“Yeah,” she said and turned to me. “Why would anybody destroy their lives like that?”
I ate a marshmallow then, stuffing my mouth so I wouldn’t say anything more. After the bonfire, that’s all I could talk about. It was the second time in less than a year that I heard anti-children sentiment from people. And this time, it stayed with me.
On the panhandle, we hauled and hammered rebar, stretching pipes across them, and throwing tarp over the pipes. And as we did that work, a small child wandered over, curious about the construction. He barely reached my knee and said nothing. His strut was awkward and unrefined. He outstretched his hands and his mother asked whether he could play.
“Come and place your hands on that pipe,” I said.
He didn’t really quite listen to me, but he placed one hand on a pipe. His face collapsed into a big smile and chuckles fell out. “There you go!” I cried as I lifted the pipe and his hand “pushed” it upward. “Wow, we really needed your help. Thank you so much!”
The boy jumped up and down, clapping. “Thank you,” his mother mouthed as the boy ran back to her.