Monday, April 18, 2011

The Mirror

Grandpa, a mirror gazer.

I paused, as usual, right before I opened the front door.

The UPS man was out there and not wanting to scare him too badly, I checked the mirror that has hung in the foyer of my home for 17 years.

In it, I saw my mother. She appeared to be superimposed over my own image not because I was seeing a spectral vision but because, as the years fly by, I have come to resemble her. Especially, at a quick glance in the mirror.

The graying mop top was hers. As are the dark eyes--simultaneously mournful and amused, as well as the deep shadows beneath them. The general resemblance we bear our predecessors has created an unmistakable aura of similarity between mother and daughter. Especially as daughter grows older.

The last time I saw it was when I was peering at myself through bleary eyes at a rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike. Mom, I remember thinking, what are you doing here?

The mirror, into which I glanced at the door, has seen many faces. It's neither elegant nor beautiful. It's just a mirror that silently hung in the front hall of my home as I was growing up.

The brownstone, purchased in 1918 by aunts, was also the house in which my mother was born and where my grandmother lived for the rest of her life after her marriage in 1921, until her death in 1984. The mirror had hung in the same spot, by the door, all that time.

I never particularly liked it, but it came with me up here because it had nowhere else to go once the house was sold...and because of whom its seen.

It witnessed my aunt Alice, now 91, on her way out the door on her many dates. Dressed to the nines, she made sure her lipstick and 40's hair-dos were perfect before she headed to the city. There she danced and smoked but trusted the mirror once again before facing her anxious mother who hovered by the window until she returned in the wee hours.
The aunts

Well before that, my aunts -- Margaret and Elsie -- did some lipstick checking of their own. Our house back then was a hub of parties and activity when the "aunts" were young. There was a piano and dancing, I am told.

My grandfather, a snappy dressing handsome-and-he-knew-it kind of guy, no doubt, did some mirror gazing, as well.

The visitors, friends and family who came and went could not help but give a quick peek into the reflection at the door. It's human nature to make sure things are smooth, symmetrical and under control before facing an unforgiving world...or, in today's case, the UPS man.

That mirror was the confidant of countless entries and departures and it kept all the secrets--a cowlick, lipsticky teeth, dismay over a receding hairline, horror at a pimple or even a private smile as the months, years and decades rolled by.

Fast forward to my sons. I can attest to the appraising glances cast into it by the boys as they galloped past, showing the mirror Halloween costumes, baseball uniforms, fresh haircuts and tuxedos on their way to the prom.

The mirror watched me go from pigtails to gray hair. And, like a good friend, it's always been brutally honest.

It told me, very clearly, when I was about 13, that blue eye shadow was a mistake but I chose to ignore the advice. I didn't tell it, after returning home chastened, that other, far less familiar mirrors had confirmed its opinion over the course of a day at school.

The mirror also has been heartless. I have, upon occasion, desperately wanted to believe that the reflections of the people so loved that have come and gone -- or simply grown up -- would still be in there somewhere and could be somehow, called forth. But that mirror plays its cards close to its vest and will give nothing up to the sentimental.

It's been repaired once or twice and, after its facelifts, looks almost good as new. Sadly, the same can't be said of the rest of us.

We give it mostly fleeting attention but it doesn't complain. It's seen us at our worst and that makes it one of the family, after all.


  1. Absolutely beautiful post. Love it! Your family's resemblance is very strong!

  2. Excellent post. One I completely and totally relate to.

  3. Thanks so much, Cat. I sobbed like a nutter while writing it. as for the resemblance, we're also all crazy.

  4. ALicia, Not surprised you relate. I know you're a sentimental girl...

  5. this was beautiful. i loved it!

  6. You made me cry! I really do hope, that in between writing for us, and keeping an eye on reality tv, that you are writing for people who pay you to do so.... you are very, very good at it xxx

  7. Janet, what an incredibly sweet thing to say! Your generous comments made my day. and regarding pay---that would be a big no. I sure could use it though--I just filled up my gas tank for $76!!!! XO