Look! A flash of orange along the river's edge-- "oriole!" comes to your lips like instinct, then it's vanished--lost in the foliage, in all your head holds, getting on with the day. But not gone for good. There is that woman walks unseen beside you with her apron pockets full. Days later, or years, when you least seem to need it--reading Frost on the subway, singing over a candled cake--she'll reach into a pocket and hand you this intact moment--the river, the orange streak parting the willow, and the "oriole!" that leapt to your lips. Unnoticed, steadfast, she gathers all this jumble, sorts it, hands it back like prizes from Crackerjack. She is your mother, who first said, "Look! a robin!" and pointed, and there was a robin, because her own mother had said to her, "Look!" and pointed, and so on, back to the beginning: the mother, the child, and the world. The damp bottom on one arm and pointing with the other: the peach tree, the small rocks in the shallows, the moon and the man in the moon. So you keep on, seeing, forgetting, faithfully followed; and you yourself, unwitting, gaining weight, have thinned to invisibility, become that follower. Even now, your daughter doesn't see you at her elbow as she walks the beach. There! a gull dips to the Pacific, and she points and says to the baby, "Look!"
From The Land of Milk and Honey, by Sarah Getty, published by the University of South Carolina Press, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Sarah Getty. All rights reserved. Used with permission.