I wrote this over 15 years ago. Sharing today for Mothers' Day.
The elevator door opens. I step inside and hold the “door open” button for other shoppers coming in with their carts and packages. It is an impatient door and waits for no one unless held.
As I look up, I see my mother looking at me over the heads of the other passengers. I am surprised to see her and smile.
Then I am confused. It is her, but it is not her. She’s had her hair cut short like mine.
And I realize that I am looking at myself in a mirrored wall.
Although I feel foolish, I am also strangely pleased by this. It is comforting to know that my mother is so close.
The elevator stops and I hold the door open while the other shoppers leave. I look over and see that my mother is doing the same thing.
From my father I have a name as a family identifier. But from my mother I don’t need one, so many other things identify me as her daughter. They become greater as I grow older. My voice, my face, my gestures. I’m even getting plump around the middle in the same way she has.
My mother has four sisters. Although they are each very different they share many characteristics. I find that I share them too.
The ache in my hands is the same arthritic ache that mom and sister Grace have. My hair texture is smooth like mom and Mary’s.
Sometimes when the sisters are together they bicker at each other. But sometimes they laugh and laugh so hard until they cannot speak and no one remembers what was so funny in the first place. When I am with my mother I can laugh like that too.
People who know my mother or her family know me instantly. The turn of my head, my small mouth. “So lovely, just like your mother,” they say and smile approvingly, as if I have somehow deliberately carried on the good family tradition so very important in Japanese culture.
I could be her mirror image. I am certainly a reflection of her. But like a reflection, backward, opposite. Opposite and the same. Like she and her mother.
Mother tells me that she and her sisters were always proud to be recognized as their mother’s daughters. I have learned to be proud of my mother too. And I wonder; when she looks at me does she also see her mother in the mirror?
Her eyes are closed. She turns her face up toward mine and I cradle it in my hand. She smiles at me. So trusting.
She doesn’t flinch as I begin with these pointy metal tweezers near her eyes. Her skin is so soft. Eyelid skin especially, stretching out as I pluck. Poing, poing. And we laugh together at a particularly stubborn hair that stre-e-e-e-etches her lid before releasing its hold.
I look down at her in wonder. This is how I must have looked to her long ago—face upturned, trusting.
I am happy I can do this small task for her as she attended to me for so many years. And she is pleased. Her bifocals, she explains, make it difficult for her to see her eyebrows in the mirror.
5/7/2015 02:39:47 am
I can identify with this totally. When I look in the mirror I can see my Mother in me., In her later years I could see Queen Elizabeth in her. My Mother was beautiful and I am so proud to be her daughter,.
5/7/2015 02:48:52 am
Lovely. Thanks, Lee.
5/7/2017 03:10:31 pm
Thank you for this mirror to hold up to catch glimpses of my mother in me with pride. I remember the first time I sat with my six-year-old daughter in church and saw my older hand holding her young hand just as I remembered having my mother's older hand holding my six-yea-old hand. I was fascinated at the difference as a little girl and I was fascinated by the difference as a mother. I am proud of my daughters (and sons), I am proud of my mother's inheritance within me, and I am proud to be mother/daughter.
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