They never used to beat me like this. I was always the one who bested them. My oldest, Victor, is trying to lead the group with his chest, and my middle child Salvador is gaining an advance. They all want to lead the pack. Toby follows as to not delay the group, and I’ve been left, the poor mother, to waddle along behind them.
They talked loudly outside the museum. It’s a vocal competition I’ve seen played out many times. They each argue about how deeply they love their mother. If someone had asked me, I would have told them to move along. I was hungry.
It’s because they’re young, all of them, though they worry about their ages more than me. Age affects the body even when you’re young, but it happens so fast, so immediate. The scary part about aging is when it slows. I’ve reached a time when I acknowledge my life’s peak, and don’t set out to attain it again. Not with a second family, or a remodeled home, or fraternizing with college boys after doing a night course. This age feels like an extra limb manifesting as I hobble along the street.
Toby turns back and sees me and my white fur coat.
This afternoon, they barked outside the museum, and I considered that this trip may have been an elaborate ruse, a fantasy, and that I was actually sitting in a dementia facility, my mind already dead. But I feel the cobblestones under my foot, threatening my ankles, and know I am alive on solid earth.
“Aspetta!” Toby says to the group.
Victor and Salvadore turn. I don’t intend to give a perfect, benign wilt to my step, yet I do exactly this at the crucial moment when all their eyes are on me. My sons look at me, and realize what they have done. Their eyes are the same as when I’d held them in my arms, but I will soon need holding in their arms. The true test is time. They rush toward me.
“Hai fame mama?” says Salvadore.
I straighten back up giving the performance of a seasoned soubrette. They have been bested once again.