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Friday, 21 March 2008

There's an Old Woman in My Mirror

By Sue West

There's an old woman in my mirror this morning and she's staring back at me. She's familiar, but that can't be me, that can't be my face. I remember other reflections from the past, but not this face.

I can see a little girl pulling herself up on the cushioned stool next to Mama's dressing table to catch a glimpse in the mirror of the pink ribbon in her hair. She turns her head to see the lace on her Easter dress and is very pleased with what she sees.

Now I see a just just-turned teen sitting at her own dressing table, school books pushed to one side so there would be room for three shades of birthday-present nail polish. She holds up her hand to the mirror with three nails painted different shades, trying to decide what is just perfect. I blink to see her turn her hands from side to side so he can admire the lovely shade of pale rose she chose and is very pleased with what she sees.

The light in the mirror changes and there is a young woman giggling with her girlfriends in a ladies room. They are at the senior prom and each is resplendent in taffeta or chiffon. They are ready to tackle the future because they are, indeed, the smartest women in the world. With a final turn of confidence before rejoining her date, the young woman glances in the mirror and is very pleased with what she sees.

Mirrors then pass quickly: the full-length in a department store, the campus ladies room, the compact from her purse, the lobby of the building where the young woman gets her first job, the passenger-side mirror on the car of the latest of a series of boyfriends.

Suddenly the mirror changes showing me a young woman reveling in the euphoria of her first real love. Not a crush this time. The real thing. She is smiling at the thought of marrying this young man, building a life with him, and raising a family. She is very pleased with what she sees.

I see the woman six months later wondering, "Will he make it home for Christmas Eve? Will he ask me to marry him? Will my Christmas present be a ring?" There is no doubt about the answer, she had been practicing her new name for months. She is excited and glowing and, just before clicking off the light, glances in the mirror and is very pleased with what she sees.

Now the room in the mirror is dark, the only light comes from the window. Except for the tears glistening on her shadowed face, the woman can barely see herself in the mirror. He said he could not get a pass and had to stay at the base. He was sorry. He'd call again, see her when he came home on leave. She turns away from the mirror knowing in her heart that this kind of love only comes once and time and space and circumstances would tear them apart.

Mirrors move past again. A whirlwind romance with someone new, pressure from the families, whispers about being an old maid, a spinster, jokes from girlfriends about being the last to go down the aisle pushes the woman into a hasty decision. Just before walking out to join the man she would marry, the woman checks the mirror and sees the trepidation in her eyes and fights the urge to run. Then she hears the clucking of mothers, "Oh, do hurry, they are waiting." She checks the final adjustment to her dress in the mirror walks into a new life.

Mirrors rush past reflecting different homes, good times and the bad, and eventually the divorce.

Finally, a new mirror gleams in the entry to a home, the middle-age woman's very own home. She checks the mirror each morning on the way to her job. On weekends, the mirror sometimes reflects her with paint in her hair, dirt on her face from the yard, or tinges of red from too long in the sun, and she is very pleased with what she sees.

For brief interludes, the mirror also reflects visits from the love of her life, but too soon the images fade away. The love is still there, but there is no permanence as the time and space and circumstances have changed dramatically and will still not allow permanence.

The mirror quickly shows me glimpses of laughter and tears, births and deaths, job changes, hardships and triumphs, illness and recovery, and finally retirement.

Now there's an old woman in my mirror this morning. Slightly shocked, I accept that she is me! I am wiser with age, free of bitterness, cherishing sweet memories, accepting of life as it is, appreciative for what I have and profoundly grateful for my friends.

I acknowledge to my mirror that my thinning gray hair has patches of white and my face has lines at the corners of my eyes and around my mouth. The once smooth skin of my hands is decorated with funny brown spots and blue lines.

I have at last learned from my reflections. I've survived the bad times, relished the good, and am stronger for it. I have come to this station in my life a bit battered by time, as we all are. I would undo some decisions and reclaim some words if I could, but this is how it is, and what has made me, me, and it is okay. With strength from the past, I look forward to what tomorrow will bring.

Now I know: It's not about what you see in a mirror, it's what you hold in your heart.

There's an old woman in my mirror this morning and I am very pleased with what I see.

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Sue, your life as reflected in mirrors captures beautifully how we slowly and gently value our loveliness within. Thank you for sharing on this early spring day.

Your reflections touched my heart. We can all learn from your wisdom and view ourselves as far more that what we see in the mirror. Thanks for that reminder.

A beautiful reflection on life.


What a joy to read your beautiful essay. I lived through every age with you and was delighted that you were so pleased with what you saw in the mirror today, and are so looking forward to the future.

Lovely remembrances.

Sue...what a beautiful piece. I felt every stage of child, girl, and woman that you wrote of...and I'm so happy that you walked through life's journey liking what you saw in the mirror at every juncture....especailly the latest one; for it is a culmination of the person that you have become through it all....and that person, though very different now from the small child looking in the mirror, must be smiling at the beautiful person she's become. Thank you for this lovely piece.

A really lovely piece! I see that old woman in my mirror too. I am not exactly pleased with that image, but I can live with it.

What a beautiful reflection on your life.

I try to avoid looking in the mirror, especially in the morning!!

Your story is beautiful and reflects the destiny some of us experience. It also reiterates just how fast time gets away. Very interesting story...true or not.

This was such a gentle, thoughtful piece. I really enjoyed reading it.

Sue, at 61 I'm right here with you. Now I worry about what I won't remember all those precious times. Your right its our memories which are so very special.

My best,
Dorothy from grammology
remember to call gram

What a beautiful and memory-provoking piece. As I read, thoughts of my own life crept in and gave me such pleasure. It reassured one of my favorite passages..."welcome each day anew with faith, joy and hope, for it is a gift of
god's goodness".

Sue, your reflections are a reminder, to those of us who are breezing by our mirrors too quickly, that we need to consider a slower pace. We need to take time to nourish our souls and preserve our memories. And, to enjoy this journey. I will strive to remember that, "It's not about what you see in a mirror, it's what you hold in your heart". Your friends are most fortunate to have such a wise and caring sage in their lives.

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