The Face in the Mirror

 

Gently I pulled myself out of bed, preparing for my morning walk. I never look at myself in the mirror that early, since I’m only interested in putting my clothes on the appropriate parts of my body, stretching out the aches and pains of sleep, and sticking a couple of barrettes in my hair to keep it out of my eyes. I do this last task by feel, because I leave off the light so that I don’t disturb my husband.

When I returned from my walk this morning, I glanced in the mirror and was stunned at what I saw. My mother was staring back at me. It wasn’t really her, but her image was reflected: silver graying hair streaked with age-defying colors, no make-up, blue eyes, Semitic nose, and soft wrinkles. There she was.

I wasn’t stunned to see how I’d aged, as much as I marveled at how nature allows us to pass on our visages from generation to generation. And for most of my years, I couldn’t see the resemblance between my mother and me (although that could have been attributed to my early attitudes about her). As I looked at the mirror I began to reminisce about my mother, who passed away several years ago. I contemplated our past together as she stared back at me.

Although most of my growing up years with my mother were strained, my mother and I reconciled some years before she died. I had been a difficult daughter, disappointed that she wasn’t the perfect mother. Eventually I realized she had done her best and after all, I didn’t turn out so bad. But suddenly looking at my mother’s smile opposite me, I realized the times I had unfairly held her responsible for a key decision of my life.

I had chosen, with my husband, not to have children; I was afraid I would “turn out like my mother.” How foolish. We were very different, my mother and I. She had led a very difficult life, fearful and guarded. Yet I had grown up with enough security that although introverted, I had the ability to open to others and bring them into my life. My mother and I discussed the idea of having friends. She had been emotionally wounded early and often through her life, so that she told me that having friends was too risky for her. I had been blessed to enjoy people (even as an introvert) to the degree that I was willing to risk friendship, its blessings and disappointments. We expressed our acceptance of each other’s choices and their consequences.

I’ve learned to live with our choice about not having children.

In spite of her aversion to risks, she was the one who most encouraged my desire to study in Israel for a year. She also started her own businesses and supported me when I began mine. She was (aside from my husband) my most enthusiastic cheerleader.

“Looking at my mother” this morning, I realized I had come a long way. First, aging can be a challenge, but I’ve tried to take it in stride. I live a healthy lifestyle. (You will, however, probably have to rip a chocolate chip cookie out of my dead, cold hands.) Although I rant at today’s politics, I’m basically optimistic, an attitude my mother couldn’t relate to; her life through her darkened prism required vigilance and caution.

But we learned to respect and appreciate our differences. We learned to laugh together, laugh at ourselves and at each other. We learned how to love each other, encourage each other and accept each other. Those, alone, were gifts we gave to one another.

One of the lasting images I have of her was the time my husband and I had gone to pick her up as she arrived at the airport. She was probably in her late ‘70s. We could see her from the distance approaching us down the wide terminal walk. She was a big woman, awkward, and she walked slowly, gently swaying, but I could see her tired smile, relieved that she had arrived safely and that we were waiting for her. When she reached us, her grin expanded and we gave each other gigantic hugs.

Now that was my mother.

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There are 33 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    • #1
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:18 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Arahant Member

    And of course:

    • #2
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:19 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. SkipSul Moderator

    Not 10 minutes after I initially read your essay, I read this, and this particular passage seems very fitting:

    In general, our children will turn out to be mostly like us – for good or ill. As a word of encouragement, I would state it this way: “Be the person you want your child to become.”

    Oddly, the virtues I can see some measure of in these later years of my life, I can clearly see in my Father (I can say the same for my vices). I am not the same man, but I am like him. My childhood instinct that preferred him to the moralisms of the religious women around me was not wrong. If I fought with him (and I did), it was myself I fought as well. When virtue prevailed, it was a victory that we shared. We are always later versions of an earlier model. In Biblical terms, we are Adam. Cain and Abel were not made from different stuff – they were two ways the same stuff was lived out. The line between good and evil, between virtue and vice, runs within each human heart as though it were one and the same heart.

    • #3
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:22 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  4. Mark Camp Member

    This is one of my favorite Susans to date, thanks.

    • #4
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:42 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I’ve been so blessed to have many more diamonds than stones; my mother probably would have said she had mainly stones. But later in her life, she recognized more diamonds, and I was so happy to see that change for her. Thanks, @arahant!

    • #5
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:44 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    And of course:

    No! No! I don’t think complaining about how expensive things have gotten counts!!

    • #6
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    In general, our children will turn out to be mostly like us – for good or ill. As a word of encouragement, I would state it this way: “Be the person you want your child to become.”

    This is SO TRUE! And the rest of the quote was spot on, too, @skipsul. Thanks!

    • #7
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:48 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    This is one of my favorite Susans to date, thanks.

    Thanks, Mark. I’m honored.

    • #8
    • September 3, 2019, at 8:50 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Blondie Thatcher

    This is excellent, Susan. I, too, see my mother staring back at me. Thankfully, I still have her with me and cherish every moment we have together. I strive to be more like her. She is a wonderful person in every way. 

    • #9
    • September 3, 2019, at 9:32 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Blondie (View Comment):

    This is excellent, Susan. I, too, see my mother staring back at me. Thankfully, I still have her with me and cherish every moment we have together. I strive to be more like her. She is a wonderful person in every way.

    I love hearing of others’ blessings. Thanks, @blondie.

    • #10
    • September 3, 2019, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  11. Arahant Member

    I just called my mother, because it pays to keep in touch:

    • #11
    • September 3, 2019, at 10:05 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I just called my mother, because it pays to keep in touch:

    Now don’t you feel lots better, my dear fellow? Jerry’s aunt swore by whiskey and honey! (This group is very funny!)

    • #12
    • September 3, 2019, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  13. Arahant Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    I just called my mother, because it pays to keep in touch:

    Now don’t you feel lots better, my dear fellow? Jerry’s aunt swore by whiskey and honey! (This group is very funny!)

    Joel Mabus wrote that song, but I couldn’t find a version with his singing it.

    • #13
    • September 3, 2019, at 10:57 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. Arahant Member

    Also, the “Help! I’m Turning into My Parents!” was written by Dale Gonyea. You may have heard his brother Don on NPR.

    • #14
    • September 3, 2019, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Stad Thatcher

    Why does my face look so much better in the mirror than does in a picture?

    • #15
    • September 3, 2019, at 11:43 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. WillowSpring Member

    “sticking a couple of barrettes in”

    I read this as “batteries” and immediately thought – “Yeah, me too!”

    • #16
    • September 3, 2019, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. JustmeinAZ Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    Why does my face look so much better in the mirror than does in a picture?

    Just remember – don’t put a mirror on the counter and bend over to look in. You will never recover. 

    • #17
    • September 3, 2019, at 11:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    WillowSpring (View Comment):

    “sticking a couple of barrettes in”

    I read this as “batteries” and immediately thought – “Yeah, me too!”

    You just made me laugh!! Every time I proofed the post I read “batteries” too! Is there another word for barrettes? (I’m still giggling!) Then again, maybe I should make more people laugh!

    • #18
    • September 3, 2019, at 12:26 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. WillowSpring Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Is there another word for barrettes?

    Not sure – where I have hair, it is too short to worry about things like that. Now, a hat I understand.

    • #19
    • September 3, 2019, at 12:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Is there another word for barrettes?

    Hair clips?

    • #20
    • September 3, 2019, at 1:17 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. SkipSul Moderator

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Is there another word for barrettes?

    The word is a diminutive form of “Barista”, which is itself Italian for “in between gigs”.

    • #21
    • September 3, 2019, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  22. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    Is there another word for barrettes?

    The word is a diminutive form of “Barista”, which is itself Italian for “in between gigs”.

    So I could say putting a couple of baristas in my hair?

    • #22
    • September 3, 2019, at 1:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. James Gawron Thatcher

    Suzy,

    I know I can get myself into trouble saying this nowadays but it is the truth. Some women are beautiful no matter how old. You are one of them trust me. Every one of your posts tells me so.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #23
    • September 3, 2019, at 5:17 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. James Gawron Thatcher

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Ari,

    This guy was one of the most underrated guys of the last 60 years. He was a diamond that most people just sort of took for granted. Every time you hear his stuff you realize just how much quality there was.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #24
    • September 3, 2019, at 5:19 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Suzy,

    I know I can get myself into trouble saying this nowadays but it is the truth. Some women are beautiful no matter how old. You are one of them trust me. Every one of your posts tells me so.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Well now you’ve got me tearing up. Cut that out! (Thanks)

    • #25
    • September 3, 2019, at 5:19 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. She Thatcher
    She

    Susan Quinn: “Looking at my mother” this morning, I realized I had come a long way. First, aging can be a challenge, but I’ve tried to take it in stride. I live a healthy lifestyle. (You will, however, probably have to rip a chocolate chip cookie out of my dead, cold hands.)

    Oh, Susan. I’d forgotten that my sister and I talked, for a time, about whether we should bury my mother with a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I think we were fairly serious about it. At least, I was.

    • #26
    • September 3, 2019, at 6:03 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    She (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: “Looking at my mother” this morning, I realized I had come a long way. First, aging can be a challenge, but I’ve tried to take it in stride. I live a healthy lifestyle. (You will, however, probably have to rip a chocolate chip cookie out of my dead, cold hands.)

    Oh, Susan. I’d forgotten that my sister and I talked, for a time, about whether we should bury my mother with a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I think we were fairly serious about it. At least, I was.

    That is so sweet, @she! It would have been a loving send-off.

    • #27
    • September 3, 2019, at 6:16 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  28. Arahant Member

    She (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: “Looking at my mother” this morning, I realized I had come a long way. First, aging can be a challenge, but I’ve tried to take it in stride. I live a healthy lifestyle. (You will, however, probably have to rip a chocolate chip cookie out of my dead, cold hands.)

    Oh, Susan. I’d forgotten that my sister and I talked, for a time, about whether we should bury my mother with a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I think we were fairly serious about it. At least, I was.

    My father was buried with some cigars in his shirt pocket and a pipe above the hands folded across his chest.

    • #28
    • September 3, 2019, at 6:19 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  29. Stad Thatcher

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Why does my face look so much better in the mirror than does in a picture?

    Just remember – don’t put a mirror on the counter and bend over to look in. You will never recover.

    I tried it, and my face sagged all the way down to it. Neat!

    • #29
    • September 4, 2019, at 6:07 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. El Colonel Contributor

    Check out Reflections

    • #30
    • September 4, 2019, at 1:12 PM PDT
    • Like
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