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?