Monday, 28 May 2012

A telling Metro vignette

A scene on the Metro from Politechnika to Wilanowska this evening. It's rush hour, the carriage is packed. Sitting on the seat nearest the door is babcia, in her early 70s. And sitting on her lap is her wnuczek, aged around 11. There's clearly six decades between the two, and yet the strapping grandson and his diminutive grandmother both see it right and fitting that he sits on her lap rather than a) stand, or b) that she sits on his lap (they seemed of equal size and weight).

What happened at the next station - Pole Mokotowskie - was even more remarkable. Many people got off the train - students on their way to an evening lecture at SGH I guess - and the seat next to babcia was vacated. Somehow no one was in a rush to take it. Half way to Racławicka station the seat was still vacant. And yet wnuczek did not get off his grandmother's knees to occupy the seat himself. Somehow, it was more natural for the boy to remain seated on Babcia's lap; he felt more comfortable sitting on her than beside her.

I have seen this scene many a time - on trams and on buses. Always boys, never girls - the oldest (on a number 24 tram on Al. Jerozolimskie) must have been at least 16. It tells me much about the way that Polish grandmothers - a powerful institution, a fundamental wellspring of power in the Polish state - treat their male heirs.

In many of these cases I have observed, I guess that the two live in the same apartment along with the boy's mother and father, who work long hours. The boy has developed a strong bond with his grandmother who still takes him to podstawówka and back. And even when wnuczek moves on to gimnazjum, that bond remains a time-honoured habit.

Grandparents are an essential source of wisdom for children wherever they are growing up; parents shout at their children; grandparents rarely do. Grandparents are less stressed by the exigencies of the workplace and have the benefit of an extra few decades' experience to pass on to their vnooks. But then grandparents also have a tendency to spoil their male grandchildren, as the scene I witnessed today seems to show.

I get off the Metro at Wilanowska and make my way to the bus stop. I see babcia and wnuczek behind me. They are both running and laughing. I can see that the relationship between the old lady and her grandson keeps her fit and happy.

This time last year:
How I almost saved the life of Barack Obama

This time three years ago:
Ansel Adams, Count Basie, Sir John Betjeman

This time five years ago:
The hissing of the summer lawns

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is quite normal for grandchildren to sit in their grandparents' laps, children in their parents', and female friends in each others' laps when there is a crowded public transportation situation, so to speak ;-)
It has nothing whatsoever to do with spoiling anyone, there is no sexual undertone, and I have never noticed any favouritism on the part of grandmas regarding their male heirs.