Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Mirror

Parents are a mystery to children the way children are a mystery to us. They have lives and thoughts you are not aware of and we are fascinated by each other. I know this because my step daughter likes to watch me do my hair and makeup. It is a quiet, almost solemn stare, like she is looking through a window to a secret ceremony she is not allowed into. I'm at a time in my life when things are making sense to me and coming full circle, like seeing someone do what I did as a child, watching as my nephew tries to crawl up his mother's ass just to be near what she is doing no matter what exciting things she puts over there to interest him, he only wants to be where she is. We did that.

I used to sit on the edge of the bathtub, watching my mother apply make-up in all of her glory. She was so amazing to me, with her gold eye shadows, red lipsticks, painted nails and dabs of perfume. Her hushed conversations and careful eyeliner belied a woman who lived another life, a life apart from me and my peanut butter sandwiches and Barbie dolls playing tennis in my bedroom. She didn't know about the neighbor dog whose breath stunk so bad we called other kids by its name as an insult, or the patch of clover outside that was so soft on my feet. She didn't live in the world of my books, where the characters were my friends, and I mourned their pains and their deaths. I didn't know that she was married to a man whom she knew had an affair, and a child to prove it. Even with my own solemn, quiet stare, I couldn't see into her.

I would look into the mirror sometimes, and think about the girl that lived on that side. I wondered if everything was the same beyond the part I could see. I used to think about it so much that I started dreaming about it. (I am sure a good therapist would have lots to say about that.) I was reminded of that when Emily started watching me put on my makeup, entranced at the little details of me getting ready for my day. In turn, I am in awe when I watch her long skillful fingers find their way to the notes of a beautiful song on the piano, when I see her manage a conflict with her friends, make a decision, and generally navigate her own little slice of this life. Is she the girl that lived on the other side of my mirror? Going about her life in an entirely different way than I did?  Maybe I had to wait to see what life looked like through that other wall, wait until it turned around on me.

We are in such a hurry to be the thing that we are not yet. I wanted to be older, I wanted to drive, I wanted to go to college, I wanted my own apartment, I wanted to be done with school, I wanted to not be so needed every second. With each milestone comes a new thing or situation I want, and new things to be grateful for. Let's not be in such a hurry. Let's sit and watch someone live another life for a moment or two. Maybe we'll find something we have been looking for all along.

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