I crept up the lawn like a prowler, then got on my hands and knees.
On all fours, I sneaked into the flowerbed, which was covered in red
mulch. The thought had occurred to me that I might see something difficult to observe if I approached in this manner. Everything concerning
my mother involved so much obvious surveillance, not careful. I wondered what I might gain by being more surreptitious and so crept to the
living room window and looked in with wide eyes.
“Hello,” I said, for there on the far side of the room sat my mother in
She looked out the back window, an imperturbable sentinel in blue
sweatpants. I raised my hand to knock on the glass, feeling a momentary
impulse not to hide from her. But I stopped, for a woman who looked
exactly like my mother walked into the living room, using a cane, and
sat on the couch. She too turned to the back window. I only had to wait
a few moments before another came into the room, followed soon by another and another: a parade of mothers slowly walking with their canes
into the living room. They were dressed identically in the familiar uniform of pink sweatshirt and blue pants.
For the first time, I felt a deep and helpless panic, as if I were watching the house get robbed and could do nothing to stop it. The panic
came from the fact that prior to this moment, I hadn’t considered that I
didn’t know what was happening. I had been so involved. The questions
of what to do at any given moment had taken up so much space that only
by hiding outside the house and looking in the window like a peeping
Tom did I perceive what I should have seen all along: that the multiplication touched everything, every moment, and would never stop. It made
Still, what struck me most was the supreme gentleness of the way
my mother tilted her head—all of them—as she looked out her beloved
window at the still blueish light and the birds conspiring in their hidden
places. Her attentiveness created an interval in which to sit and watch.
She did not wait for what would happen next but stopped companionably for it to catch up, filling the universe with the subtle brightness of
a hope that something would appear: a bird or a small mammal, cold
perhaps but trying to keep warm, patiently making plans, still living,
subject to care. And all the while as I watched, the room filled up with
the moment’s audience, like a crowd gathering in a theater before something is revealed.