Yesterday, I watched my youngest take the world’s largest bite of potato off of the world’s smallest spoon and I immediately thought, “Yes, she is mine.” Not only do we share an incredibly similar love of starch and overloading a utensil, but, she scrunches up her nose when she hears a knock-knock joke she loves and, at times, she just needs a quiet place to sit. I’ll find her in a corner with a book or at a table with a pack of crayons, brows furrowed – pacifier hanging out of the corner of her mouth between clenched teeth.
Watching these moments begs me to remember history and how we’re connected in bits and pieces to each other. People who still live. People who have died. People we’ve never met – all molding parts of our DNA. Sometimes, we’re so similar to people we don’t want to claim. We cover those pieces of ourselves behind the same clenched teeth. If you bite down hard enough in concentration, you can will your dominant genes into a peaceful retirement; golf carts and whiskey sours on a wrap around porch somewhere sunny. We try to make it comfortable – just nice enough so those pieces of us don’t show up uninvited during the holidays.
I picked up my wine glass last night with the perpetual name-tag of a red lipstick rim and remembered watching my grandmother put on a lighter shade. She leaned into the mirror as I often do. I watched with great curiosity and an even greater want of that tube while I balanced on the edge of the tub. I see that look on my eldest’s face when she catches me in the same pose. The mirror holds generations of reflections. My daughter sees only mine.
We spend so much of our lives speaking about the future. In the children racing around my legs, I feel nothing but their forward momentum. Youth is intense – swift legs, strong hearts. They will keep chasing something they love for years. Now, I feel the shift in my reflection. I see the lines in my forehead and around my eyes, the product of the same nose scrunch of my daughter. I think I’ve arrived at the place I was chasing.
And the future is different suddenly for me. No more swift forward momentum or straining toward adulthood. The hard edges are becoming round. This new vision of moving forward involves so much more looking back. Who I am is made up of the pieces of so many mothers who came before.
There is something heavy about owning that. Stepping up to the challenge to be the best versions of all of the reflections in the mirror. Hoping I carry enough of the good stuff over to the small people who look at me as if I’m the only mother that ever existed.
Maybe it’s time to try a softer shade.