Mother was “house proud.” She displayed the Far Eastern treasures from her long-gone expatriate Shanghai years to their best advantage. She carefully trained her smilax vine across the railing of her North Carolina patio.
Before my visit, a pair of wrens built a nest in the vine and marred its perfect symmetry. Mother developed an itchy rash when she tore it out.
“The doctor gave me this ointment, but it didn’t work,” she said one day as I slid open the patio’s door and handed her a glass of iced tea.
“But your vine has recovered,” I said. “Look, it has wound itself clear across the railing again.”
The doorbell rang. The physical therapist had arrived for Mom’s weekly therapy.
I sat on the couch and leafed through the pages of a magazine. I glanced toward the patio. A tiny wren had landed on the railing. Another settled beside her. Together they began to fly back and forth, cheeping, bearing twigs in their beaks, and placing them in the thickest part of the smilax vine.
Mother’s eyesight was failing. I hoped she wouldn’t notice.