Voices Unseen

Mommy, come and see! Come see! Mommy! Mom!

As I sit at the kitchen table with my coffee, I hear the little voice through the screen door that leads to the backyard.

Filled with the excitement only a three or four year old boy can muster.

Was it a newly-discovered mud hole? A furry caterpillar winding his way down the sidewalk? Or possibly a long-lost truck or plastic Army guy, buried in the sandbox?

Mommy usually responds to him rather quickly, though sometimes he has to call for her a second or third time.

Mommy takes a break in her busy morning and walks into the backyard to see what her little man has discovered.

It rained, Mommy! Rained! Water on the leaf right there, see?

Morning dew, masquerading as rain. Science lessons learned just beyond the screen door.

Mommy goes back inside, tending to the new little one who arrived sometime between last fall and this spring.

Boy or girl? I don’t know.

They are living a life that I can only hear through my screen door. In the earliest of morning hours when little boys play in the backyard and my teenage boy still slumbers.

We have never met.

The configuration of our neighborhood means that although we share a back fence, the front of their home is actually a rather long walk.

When the weather warms each spring and I leave the sliding door open a bit longer I get my glimpse into their lives again.

But these interactions between mother and child that take place just beyond the fence in my backyard? They feel like a snippet of video tape from my mind.

A replay of many, many mornings just like that when I was the mommy.

Little boy exploring the backyard, enthusiastically calling for me to come and watch an ant hill or look at a tiny bird’s egg fallen from the tree. Always showing and telling me about something; eager and excited.

Tiny sibling inside the house, crying for this reason or that; tearing me away from the boy and his treasures.

I hope I listened.

Since I can’t see this little neighbor boy and have no sense of his features or his smile, my mind matches the voice with the little boy I knew best. The small cries and babbles I match to my little girl. So many hours spent in that backyard back then; just playing and discovering and growing up.

When mine were young and I was living that life, an older woman lived in that same house behind us.

I wonder sometimes if she listened to the rhythm of my days, to the sounds of my kids playing, to the laughter, or to the stern words that tend to come from a mother’s mouth when she’s tired or needs a break.

Did she listen?

Did it create an ache inside her to play again, to marvel at each little thing a child discovers in a small backyard, to run and squeal and laugh?

As it does in me?


  1. I love to read your posts because they are gorgeous and remind me to stay present. And, wow, do they get to me. Always.

  2. Posts like this make me wish it was ME that lived in that house behind you. You could come over for coffee, or I would bring some to you and we would chat and my kid(s) would play and you could spoil them before I took them away to nap and leave you to the peace and quiet that I will have someday…

    I love your writing, Sherri. So very much.

  3. Just beautiful Sherri!

  4. now i feel bad, because everything that happened in the backyard today was um…CRAP I FORGOT TO TURN OFF THE HOSE BE RIGHT BACK!…that’s been on since 10 am. Anyway, there’s been a lot of pinching and hitting and not sharing and I didn’t get any sleep last night, and I am about ready to give my kids to the neighbor…at least for a few hours.
    I don’t think I sounded nice. I know I refused to push my son in his swing several times this morning. I wanted to drink my coffee and stare straight ahead…sort of like a troll.

  5. I have often wondered about our neighbors – the giggles and stories they heard with my little girl swinging higher and higher in the avocado tree! Time goes by so fast. Can I have a do-over? Thanks Sherri! Tender words from a tender heart! 🙂

  6. Your posts are so great.This one is putting a smile on my face.

  7. So wonderful.

    yes, you make me run for the wine bottle a bit too early in the evening, but this? Just so wonderful.

    Reminds me of when I watched my neighbor leave for the hospital to have her baby last summer, My eyes filled with tears from the 2nd floor window: I knew I”d never feel that excitement of meeting your baby for the first time again.

  8. You’ve done it again. Beautiful, Sherri. You bring tears to my eyes, and a hope in my heart that I am enjoying and taking full advantage of these years when the boy is still young and demands my attention.

    I also enjoy hearing about your response to your neighbor – knowing what they are going through. One of my neighbors (I live in an apartment) is very grumpy at the fact that a child lives next door to her – even though she had a little one long ago. She is unforgiving about the least bit of noise, slamming her door when he raises his voice too loud and grumbling at him if he goes on “her side” of the grass in front of our building.

    But that’s kind of off topic? Anyway. LOVELY. Your words, your emotions, YOU are just lovely.

  9. Such a touching post.

    I admit, I probably say “in a minute” way too often to my little boys. It’s a good reminder that I need to slow down and enjoy this moments now.

  10. I really want to send you some play doh

  11. Wow. I found you somehow through twitter, you were on my feed, I don’t know why, but after reading this post. I’m so very glad. I will be back. Thank you for putting into words that feeling, that longing for a time that flew too quickly.

  12. I love your words so so so so much Sherri. Every time you write something like this, it makes me feel like I’m catching a glimpse into my future. And also my right-now.

    I’m afraid there are so many moments I’ve missed b/c I would say, “just hold on.” I only hope they don’t remember those moments. I hope instead the moments I chose to play in the rain & enjoy being a mom stick out.

  13. Oh for heaven’s sakes, you need to start these posts with a tissue warning. I want to go wake up my children and hug them close.

    Thank you for that. xoxo

  14. Your writing touches me each time, Sherri. Beautiful.

  15. Oh you and your tear jerkers.

    You always remind me to squeeze my kids extra tight.

    Thank you for that. We all owe you one.


  16. How touching and beautifully written.

  17. You’re killing me. Killing me. I think about this all of the time. How fleating it is. How this will all pass. How hard it is now, and how I will long for it later….

  18. you and the melancholy this week …
    quit making me look back at the time that I have already lost – PLEASE!

  19. You’re really going to have to stop making me cry. Seriously, I might have to stop reading your blog!!

  20. This reminds me that I need to listen more. My kids love playing outside and call for me “watch Mommy” or “look Mommy” and I’m often so distracted. Thank you for the reminder.

  21. :::sigh::: I need a tissue now.

    That was such a sweet post. I think that at times we all get distracted and our kids will call us several times before we answer… I know I’m at fault for it.

  22. Dang it, woman! Why do I try to read you at my desk? I know it’s going to lead to tears. Sigh. Beautiful, as always.

  23. This is my first time here and this is a really lovely post! It’s nice to find someone who has older kids. My daughter just turned 11 and I was wondering if I was the only one who had a child over age 10!

  24. You have such a gift.
    You bring me to a calm place and make me so grateful to be a mother.
    You make me remember to cherish every second.
    Thank you!

  25. Seems every post I read of yours reminds me to cherish these days when my kids are small and exploring and learning so much at once. Thank you for that. I’m hearing you… 😉

  26. I don’t know how you do it. EVERY.SINGLE.POST is superly, #ALLCAPSAWESOME and makes everyone fall that much deeper in love with you.

    You need to write introspective, feel-good mommy books.

    For real.

  27. This was just beautiful. I sometimes find myself telling my kids to “wait a minute” and this is a great reminder to live in the moment. Thank you.

  28. Beautiful 🙂

  29. You always get to me with your posts. It makes me want to really make sure I listen to my boys, before those days are gone.

  30. Know what my 6yo said to me yesterday? He asked if we could play Candy Land and since I had been away so much walking, I right away said “Sure!”

    His response was “Momma, you usually say “maybe yah, in a bit” – you really want to play NOW?”

    And I did.

    And it reminded me to be more attentive.
    Love you and your words, woman.

  31. This post made me feel sad. Because it was so beautifully written and because it made me feel nostalgic for a time that is not already yet gone with my little ones, but that I know won’t last forever. I try so hard to be present in these moments for them. I hope I am there for them the way they need me to be right now. Sometimes it feels like there isn’t enough time for everything that is always happening in life. Esp. with little children around who are always so busy. Your post is a wonderful reminder not to take these moments for granted. Thank you for this.

  32. This is beautiful. I try to stay present…but sometimes I know I’m in another place. This is a wonderful reminder to stay in these moments. Everything else can wait.

  33. I’ve been wanting to comment on this post the moment I read it!!

    Love it so much. “I hope I listened”. You always remind me to stop and take a look and listen at the little ones around me. Thank you. XO

  34. This brings tears to my eyes. I have a 4 yr old boy and a 2 yr old girl. Some days feel long and tiresome. Thank you for helping me to cherish today.

  35. I can so relate to this…. as I’ve been thinking the same thing sandwiched in my neighborhood between women old enough to be my mother and women with very young kids and babies. Indeed it does create an ache…

  36. I’ll just bet she did. How could you hear a question like that and not listen to it? It would have rung like silver on crystal in my ears. Lovely post. Truly lovely.

  37. I struggle with this on a daily basis. Thank you for reminding me how fleeting these early days are. I love this. And you. xoxo