While sitting on the train with the husband, a family got on and sat next to us, parents, teenaged stepson, and a toddler and a baby together in one of those unwieldy double strollers. I looked at the sleeping toddler's mittens: tiny, brightly colored, with a repeated design of skulls. How odd, I thought, that this memento mori has become such a popular pattern for the clothes of small children.
Was it started with irony - dress your two-year-old in goth death metal biker style with a big old wink - or is it a distant reflection of our warlike times? Or did it just filter down, with little kids demanding to have the same things that the big kids have?
More, I wonder if it gives parents pause to pull a wailing baby into a little green onesie patterned with skulls? I want to know if it feels odd to show off this squirming bundle of your genes and proof that life just goes on and on, with a nasty reminder that death gets us all in the end. I guess a hundred years ago and more, when the chances of making it to your third birthday were far slimmer than today, no one bothered with skull patterns since children were a reminder in and of themselves that death gets us all in the end.
As for today, well, we're so removed from death these days that the image of a skull is really nothing more than a fashion statement. I would be surprised if any parents gave any of this a second thought.
But it never fails to startle me.
The Swedish word for the day is ben. It means bone or bones as well as leg or legs.