Riding a relentless conveyer belt of people on Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan, I had to stop and step aside to stare at a reflection on a storefront’s glass window.
It was of a woman lifting her child playfully on a beach — from an advertisement on the side of a bus that was stopped at a light behind me. But, for me, it was my mother, alive again, and so young. And I was the boy on her shoulder laughing through the rush of the surf.
At home after a day on the beach, I would sit with her at our red-and-yellow speckled Formica kitchen table where she taught me how to cut vegetables. She would talk to me of family and of the world that was, before I was born and before even her own birth.
I would take her stories with me, running up the stairs to my bedroom, where sitting on the floor with a tin can of crayons, I would draw the red, green, and blue lines of my parents’ parents journeys to America from eastern Europe and Russia, across heaving oceans to New York and, at last, to me, my open hands extended up, offering these time-traveling giants my fresh-cut string beans in one hand, a baseball in the other, on the sidewalk outside our 1950’s post-war Washington, D.C. red-brick row house on Oglethorpe Street.
The bus moved on, the image vanishing from the glass. But, my mom was still there for a few seconds more, reaching out to dry a single tear with the sweet round of her thumb to let me know, even now, that it was ok, that all was ok.
I wanted to tell her where I was headed. What I was doing. How my wife was. How her grandchildren were, her little women and men who would someday be where I am now, on a crowded walk in a busy city, and from their own city reflections, see their young grandmother and father for a few moments before their next appointments.