Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Through the Looking Glass

Pin It A couple of days ago my daughter discovered the medicine cabinets in her new bathroom. Our old house didn’t have medicine cabinets and she thought they were fantastic. She deemed them secret doors and opened and shut them over and over again, hiding something new inside each time. After a minute, I showed her how she could see herself from a whole bunch of different angles by tilting the mirrored door toward the mirror on the wall. She stared at herself in fascination and I remembered something I hadn’t thought of in years.

When I was little I would lock myself in the bathroom, climb up on the sink and sit there staring at my reflection for a long time. Part of the time I was trying to decide whether or not I was cute enough to be on TV. I thought (with all of the self centered vanity of a six year old) that overall I was pretty darn cute, with big eyes and blonde hair, but I was not quite sure about my nose, which was not buttonish, perky, or upturned. Was it a TV quality nose? I wasn’t sure.

It was important for me to figure it out, because more than anything, I wanted to take over Holly Marshall’s role on Land of the Lost. I thought she was awful and stilted, and I just knew that if the people in charge got a look at me in action, I would be in, and she would be out. No question. After all, I was an excellent actress. I knew this because I was able to tell adults absolute whoppers without ever getting caught. Still, I would practice making faces in the mirror, trying out different emotions and examining my face for believability.

I would start looking in those mirrors and I would become transfixed. Not by my face, but by the reflection of the reflection. The reflections would double in on themselves until they almost didn’t look like me. The girl I saw off in the distance looked different, prettier, richer – luckier. But when I closed the mirror she disappeared.

I was sure the mirror girl really existed. I was sure that when I closed the medicine cabinet she was off in her parallel universe, one with a pink canopy bed, voice lessons and a starring role on Broadway in Annie. Sometimes I would press my head to the mirror and I would think, if I hold my head here long enough, I will get through the mirror and I will be in her world.

It became a game – inventing little tests for myself. If I completed the test and wished as hard as I could, I would get through. If I stay submerged in the tub for twenty seconds without hearing any noise… If I can make my way around the house without touching the ground... If I can walk through the whole house while looking down into a mirror so that it looks as though I’m walking on the ceiling… But inevitably in the middle of one of my tests someone would call my name, or make noise, or ask me what I was doing and it would be ruined, all ruined. It was like that old movie, Somewhere in Time, where Christopher Reeve travels back into the past through sheer force of will, but gets called back to the present and torn away from his true love when he catches a glimpse of a present day penny. For me every stray voice was a penny, bringing me back to the reality of what I felt was a very ordinary, non-shiny life.

After a while, the mirrors lost their allure. As a teenager I felt awkward and ugly and had no desire to look at myself from multiple angles. When I did catch a glimpse of the girl in the mirror, she seemed to be going through just as awkward a time of it as I was. Still, sometimes, on very bad days, I would lean against the mirror and wish for something different, something shinier.

Even now, when I’m stressed, I will go into the bathroom, close my eyes and rest my head on the coolness of the mirror, and until recently, I’d completely forgotten why. (Isn’t it funny how certain actions can be comforting long after we’ve forgotten why they were comforting in the first place?)

I guess sometimes we all want to climb inside. We want our lives, our families, our friends - but we want things to be smoother, less complicated, less bumpy - gleaming like the surface of a polished mirror. Yeah - the bumps teach us, they shape us, they mold us - I KNOW. But they also just kind of suck, and we all get tired of them, sunday school lessons notwithstanding.

This week I'll be at the old house in Utah, wrapping things up and giving it a final scrubbing. If you happen to see me out in the backyard, trying to do three cartwheels and then a somersault, all in a perfect line, or trying to make it all the way around the yard without touching the ground, rest assured that I haven't lost my mind completely, I'm just - wishing a little.

36 comments:

  1. Oh Sue, what beautifully expressed reflections (pun not intended - honest!). I did such similar things as a young girl...the if I do this then this will happen game. The staring at my amplified reflection for what seemed like hours. I wonder sometimes, is it possible to recapture that sense of wonder?

    Good luck with all the last bits and bobs of the moving process. I know it's rough, but I hope you don't want to escape into the mirror world -too- often. ~hugs~

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  2. HA! I used to do that! Well the hold a mirror under my nose and pretend I was walking on the ceiling. I forgot all about that! I've got to tell Go Figure. We used to do that together as kids.

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  3. I used to refuse to step in shadows if I could AT ALL help it...LOL! I'm sure I looked like a giant dork hopping over shadows in the house when I was little...

    That was a fun post to read...

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  4. The blogosphere, Sue - the blogosphere holds the girl in the mirror - no wonder it is so seductive.

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  5. So sweet. I don't even want to go to the other girl, all I wish for is to go back and be 10 again. Just for awhile. Life was sure simpler then.

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  6. I used to do that with puddles on the playground.

    Maybe I'll be playing with mirrors today.

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  7. I did that too. Especially the walking on the ceiling bit. I'd get so into it that I'd have to walk around the ceiling fans and everything. It was fantastic.

    good luck this weekend!

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  8. I totally LOVED this post, Sue.

    I had a Winnie the Pooh puzzle that had a 3-D/Holographic frame around it that when you turned it would change images, and showed Pooh and Friends playing in a whimsical little cartoon land. I remember thinking that if I jumped really high on my bed, I could somehow make myself jump into the frame and play in that cartoon land. Funny the whimsical, fanciful thoughts that go through kids heads.

    Sometimes now, I look at my computer screensaver...a beautiful, pristine Island in a blue ocean, and wish I could somehow jump into that picture, too.

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  9. Yeah, I used to want to be a Fisher Price Little People so that I could play in the Little People house, which I was CONVINCED, CONVINCED CONVINCED was actually real. Ya know - when I was out of the room.

    Karen - wow, that is so true.

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  10. (You would've been 10x better than that gal in the blond braids).

    What a beautifully expressed post.

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  11. Beautiful post.

    I used to wish that my yard was the Willy Wonka factory, and that I could lick the tree and it would taste like candy. Of course I never really tried it, ok maybe once.

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  12. I love reading your posts. I remember walking around with a mirror. It was always startling walking into the entryway where the ceiling would suddenly drop 12 feet and the slope up the stairs was fun. I think we all wish we could be six again. But only for a day or two.

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  13. I would stare into the mirror and make tears well up and spill over my cheeks for absolutely no real reason.

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  14. You are an amazing writer! I just love reading your blog. Thank you for this post- I used to do the same thing when I was younger. Except I'd face the medicine cabinet mirror to the wall mirror and I KNEW behind all of those reflections, way back down a dark greenish "hall of mirrors", that there was a perfect world. If I do see you by your old house, I'll be sure not to distract you. :)

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  15. hahah!! I did crap like that all the time. We are kindred.

    I'm so sad you are leaving us here in Happy Valley. It will be a much blander place, if that's possible.

    loves

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  16. Ah, sweetie. Your nose is PERFECT. As is this post.

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  17. that post was so beautiful... your writing is truly admirable... you really have a way with seeing the truth and putting it in words that touch deeply and express clearly... thank you for blessing my day with your words...

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  18. It's amazing how we won't think of things for years, and then it just all comes back. Good luck with the house stuff.

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  19. I did the same thing with the mirror in the old bedroom at my grandparents' farm. I could stand there for hours, playing with the reflections, finding the perfect angle.

    I will be thinking about you and sending you lots of virtual hugs during your last trip to Utah (for now!).

    Big hugs - Heidi

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  20. That was beautifully written.

    Thank you.

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  21. Goodness, how poignant. You captured that all so well. I think everyone can relate.

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  22. good post sue - I read it last night and was still thinking about it when I woke up this morning.

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  23. Shalane11:13 AM

    Very eloquently written, Sue. I think the mark of an excellent writer is one who can make others feel what she is feeling and transport us into her world. I loved the poetry of your writing, the symbolism, and the ability to make us all be introspective.

    Glad your back for a few days. We need to have a cleaning party. :)

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  24. That was absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing your many reflections. The world would be a poorer place without Sue.

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  25. I love you, Sue. I used to practice being on a soap opera. Because every soap opera needed an eight-year old with giant teeth squished together in a small mouth and huge hair.

    They never knew what they were missing.

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  26. The magic of mirrors...what a great post. I hope you get through your cartwheels and somersault uninterrupted!

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  27. That was a really nice post. I used to love the mirrors too, especially the ones that wrapped around you on three sides. But I could never understand why the other little girl always looked so far away.

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  28. Hi, My name is Maraiya and I'm a lurker. I've been lurking for 492 days. (Okay, I have no idea how long as my memory doesn't work so well but you get the idea.) Is it me or does "lurking" sound similar to stalking? I feel as though I should have a trenchcoat and greasy hair. I digress.

    Your blog is FABULOUS! I laugh almost every time I read it. You are so engaging and honest - I love it. My four year old daughter is convinced that Abby is her best friend. (Lulu also believes that she is a full on princess and used to call me Queen Mommy - unfortunately she gave that last part up. *sigh*)

    Thank you for all that you share and your wonderful view on life.

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  29. sue, you're fabulous. you know that, right?

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  30. I loved this story! I could relate to it. I, too, use to stare at my reflection in my bedroom mirror when I was young and just stare and think. I never really told anyone that before... Thanks for sharing this story.

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  31. I love this post.

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  32. Lovely post. Boy, glad I caught this today. I needed to be reminded of this especially today.

    Thanks for sharing yourself with us.

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  33. I so loved that post, it is a keeper favorite post. I remember looking in those mirrors too. I didn't quite take it as far as you but...close.

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  34. Very cool post! (and I'm glad I'm not the only one who believed - really believed - that the girl in the mirror was somehow better than the real me.)

    Also? Love that movie!

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  35. What a wonderful, whimsical post. I miss having a child's imagination.

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  36. This post took me back! I totally remember climbing up on the sink and making faces at myself, examining my face, wishing for different eyes. There was something fascinating about looking in the mirror and playing with the angles. Thanks for the memory lane visit :)

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