the mirror

Mother, May I? 

two weeks of prompts from

with tanned shoulders, a black cocktail dress, bubbled at the bottom, coral lipstick and a perfect chignon, she would sit in front of the birds eye maple vanity, a 1953 wedding gift, now, no longer a part of her life.

i have searched my mother’s eyes, the same familiar dark brown as my own for recognition, for a reflection of myself, for clarity.

as a little girl, i saw only fear in her eyes.

as a young girl, i saw the expectations.

as a teenager, i saw endless activity and diversion and distance.

as a young mama myself, i couldn’t find her as she searched the world for herself, some kind of meaning and tried to save the poor kids, the underprivileged kids, the abused kids, completely unaware of the emptiness and poverty her only daughter was living in.

in my late 30’s i quit looking.

i couldn’t search any longer. alone, a girl without maternal reflection, without recognition. i was done listening to the words of other people. “You look just like your mother.” “You could be sisters.” “I wish I could be a part of your family.” “I wish your mom could be my mom.”

the mirror of my mother’s eyes was distorted and deceptive and never reflected a clear image. she projected what she wanted others to see, resulting in emptiness and longing, expectations and assumptions. i saw myself, only as an extension of her making, her accomplishments, her dreams, her aspirations.

that mirror continues to be distorted. now it has been twisted by a stroke and dementia, a cruel act that has closed off any hope of ever being seen for who i am rather than what i can do by my mother.

my childhood ivory mirror with beveled edges fits perfectly in my hand. there is a slight waver within the glass, along with several darkened splotches but i am able to look deeply into familiar dark brown eyes and see myself as enough. not as a reflection of fear or expectations, but of strength and endurance. of knowing and trusting my experience. myself.

when I quit looking for my mother, i began to find myself. it is this self ~ the strong and wise woman-child that i am, that is able to enter into daily interactions with the frustrated, fading, demanding mother i always wanted to know. now, as i search my mother’s eyes, i reflect back to her the depth of love she could never find, the stillness she never knew she was looking for and the acceptance she fought for her entire life.

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