A Mirror True



Usually it happens at night.

She always was the one, as a baby, up until midnight. Wide awake next to me in bed, with those round cerulean eyes. Not crying, not fidgeting—just awake. Eerily awake. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that these things happen with nocturnal regularity.

Now that she’s eleven and her body is doing some weird stuff … well, she has questions. It’s popping out hair in unexpected places and growing softer and fuller in others. It’s getting longer and leaner, too, and what’s up with her skin? These are what she brings to me when the day is done. (So much for those peaceful moments of newborn cuddling. Sigh.)

There’s a mirror on the back of my door. It’s not a fancy one with an oak frame or decorative chrome frills or engravings, just a cheapie from Wal-Mart. But it does the job.

This mirror has become my daughter’s constant companion. She parades before it in her clothing choices, now tilting her head to the left, now looking over her shoulder to get the backside view, now pulling her hair around her face, then piling it up atop her head. She pouts at it and smiles at it and even leans in close to examine what the heck is going on with her skin?!

And this mirror? It lies to her.

See, because it is made of only cheap cardboard and shine, the mirror that hangs on my door is warped a bit. It distorts the images that it reflects until they look wider and wavier than their original form. My daughter doesn’t see herself for what she really is in this mirror—this one she has befriended—she only sees a poor, contorted similitude with an insidious secret:

The reflection she beholds is not proportionate to the truth of who she is.

And do you want to know an even fiercer secret? This mirror is not a good friend.

So when it’s late and she’s standing there in tears–seeing herself, but not seeing herself—I take her by the arm and march her downstairs.

In the darkened bathroom, I know there stands a mirror true. It is affixed to the wall and has no waves or distortions. There are no imperfections that crack through to the reflective surface or instabilities that warp the image. There is only the serene calm of a proportionate, sound reflection.

This mirror tells the truth.

We flip on the light and there she stands: tall and beautiful—as she really is. It takes her a moment to get used to the light and find the courage to look at herself again. She takes a deep breath and blinks back the rest of her tears. And then she creeps forward slowly, straightening out her shoulders and moving with more freedom. Leaving behind the self-consciousness that had her so tightly bound, insecurities vanish and she remembers why she liked this outfit in the first place or what it was about this hairstyle that was so flattering.

She turns this way and that, drying wet eyes and leaning over for the backside view. She grins and pouts and we giggle and tease and make silly faces and take unflattering selfies. Eventually we head to bed, tired from our big guffaw, and both bearing the marks of mirror battles. Both knowing what it is to overcome refracted falsifications so the genuine can liberate.

The mirror true has done its work. Again.

Someday I will tell her that these wars wage on a grander scale, as well. That mirror battles are just the bunny slopes when it comes to truth and distortion and how we view ourselves.

Someday she will learn that life is full of those who would mirror her according to their own cracks and bruises, their own faulty foundations and unstable backbones. In those mirrors, she will see herself as flawed. Deeply flawed. Hopelessly, even.

But—BUT—she must not let those reflections define her.

Just as my maternal hands guided her to the mirror true, she must learn to seek out those who will echo back at her with an honest pitch.

She must learn to trust the liberating shine of these mirrors, even when she’s not so sure of it herself.

She must seek the perspective of the ones who see with eternal, sacred eyes because they will remind her of the stardust in her own. They will remind her of the inherent dignity of her voice and the beauty in her song. They will empower her to make unique choices that fit her unbounded personality and to own the parts of her story that don’t end with happily ever after.

Because these are friends of the honorable sort.

These are mirrors true.


Image credit: Stephane