Smiles – part II

Since writing about smiles here a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been watching them. Closely. I’ve seen all kinds, from those that slowly creep into existence, to those that twitch on pursed lips, to the cheeky grin that just spreads and spreads. What strikes me most, however, are babies’ smiles. Not for their cuteness, but for their innocence and hope.

On the train the other day I saw a baby trying to elicit smiles from those around it. Blissfully unaware of the potential for curmudgeonly Berliners, it singled out a man and fixed him with a beaming expression. The man reciprocated and the baby was satisfied. It then offered an elderly lady the same toothy grin. This time, however, the infant’s efforts were met with a chilly stare. It tried again. No response.

The baby shyly retreated into its mother’s arms with a look of adult-like uncertainty about what its next move should be. A moment later it tried again, this time adding a coo and stretching its head towards the old lady in case she was in any doubt about her role as the addressee of the piece. When the woman allowed her lips to turn up a fraction, the baby smiled wider, sighed, and moved on to the next person.

I was thinking about that baby today when I smiled my thanks at a man who let me go first along on a section of pavement not wide enough for us both. I could see he was not going to acknowledge either his gesture or my gratitude, so I followed the baby’s lead and offered the man a loud and clear danke. His face cracked, he nodded and we went our separate ways. Not ten minutes later, our paths crossed again, only this time round he smiled. Perhaps babies are not so innocent after all.

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