Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Story of the Mirrors (Or It's Variant Title: The Unhumorous Humor of Those Now Dead)

To properly understand this story we must first go back in time a few years. As a child I was very bookish.  In fact, I preferred reading books to almost any activity. Most evenings my Mother would have to come into my room and tell me to stop reading and go to bed and she would then turn the lights off. And I would attempt to read in the dark. I have a sneaking suspicion that is why I am now legally blind, or close to it without contacts.

Because I lived in so many worlds inside my mind I never much paid attention to how I looked in the real world, or the physical one, however you look at it. Aside: There is your dose of existentialism for the day. Another effect of my bookish ways was my propensity towards chubbiness. I never played sports or ran around with the other kids much because I preferred to lay on the couch or under a tree and read.  And because of this I garnered the lovely nickname of "Baby manatee".

When I look at pictures of myself (and I'm OH SO sorry that I can't figure my scanner out to post some of them for you here today) from that era it is almost painful. I can usually be found with huge round frame glasses Ala Sally Jessee Raphael, and some random large T-shirt tucked into a lovely pair of high waisted, tapered leg pants. The term wallflower was an understatement.  Wall catastrophe would be a more apt description.

And then puberty hit. And I got boobs, really big boobs. It seemed almost overnight that my height shot up a foot and I became lean. I also finally got contact lenses and it was possible to view my face for once. I started high school and for the first time boys were taking a notice in me. Alot of boys it seemed. This new found attention caused me to take a bigger interest in my wardrobe and Jillian discovered the Gap. What wonders these changes wrought in me.

So our story of the mirrors begins at the onset of my transformation from the ugly bookworm. My maternal Grandparents had come to Pennsylvania for a visit and had not seen me in a while. They always did have a strange sense of humor. Mostly it was my Grandmother, but my Grandfather seemed to willingly play along. Every year for Christmas it was some strange thing that they would do for every one's present. I remember once getting one hundred one dollar bills sewn together in one giant roll and a box that contained a seam ripper and a note that read: Anything worth having is worth working for. I tried to take it to the bank in the roll in the hopes that they might take pity on me and cash them. When I got to the counter, the teller took one look at it and yelled, "OH NO!" and pointed her finger to the door. It took me over a year to sit down and carefully rip apart all of those bills.

But the visit we are speaking of happened in the fall, months before Christmas. During that time of metamorphoses I could be found around the house almost always singing, applying makeup, and even dramatically reciting Shakespeare. In. The. Mirror. I was always looking at myself. And not just in mirrors, in anything that might reflect my image. I believe that the Grandparents thought that I was perhaps a little too vain, and maybe I was, but I don't remember it that way.

I looked at myself so many times in the way that you might pinch yourself to make sure you're not dreaming when something unbelievable happens. Because although my outside had transformed before my eyes without my attempts to make it so, or even a desire for it to happen, inside I was still the bookish, chubby little girl with the big glasses. In a time in most girl's lives that can be very painful, I was having an incredible adventure. And I would look at myself and wonder what it was that had changed, and what it was that people took notice of now. I would ask myself why, and then go back to the singing and the applying of makeup.

The months came and went as months always do, and soon Christmas had arrived. A very large brown box came for me in the mail. It was from the Grandparents and I couldn't wait to open it. I cut it open and sifted through the tissue paper and found...a mirror. I thought that perhaps they had made a beauty package with makeup and hair accessories so I dug through the box for more and found...another mirror. When the box was emptied I sat on the kitchen floor surrounded by over 25 mirrors of varying shapes and sizes. I didn't understand why they had sent me all the mirrors until my mother explained it to me. I remember wanting to cry and telling my Mom she could have all of them as I headed up to my room.

In hindsight perhaps it was a good thing for them to point out my innocent vanity instead of letting me continue to unwittingly embarrass myself. After all when Elsbeth slaps her diaper front in the store and screams, "I GO PEE-PEE!" I quietly shush her and explain the privacy of such matters. I suppose it's all in the delivery. Mary Poppins truly said it best when she said, "A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down."

Both of my Grandparents have passed away now and I hold nothing against them. I don't think there was malice in their intent when they sent me all those mirrors. And while it hurt my feelings at the time, I think it is important to attempt to examine the heart of someone who hurts us, many times it is done without knowing it.

Dear "Aged One", I know that may not have been the barrel 'O laughs you were anticipating, but "thems the facts" as I recall them anyway. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and look at myself.


Charlotte said...

Ahhh grandparents.
My darling grandmother sat me down, me in my cutoffs and her in her sequined parrot dress. She quietly explained her dismay that I was born with NO SENSE OF STYLE. She elaborated that some people were born with it as she was, and I clearly wasn't but that's ok because I could start a clipping notebook of all the media out there with style and when it was time to shop or dress I could just avail myself of their wisdom. In tears and dismay I've done exactly that over the years, and have been complimented often on my style by people whose opinion matters to me. My boss's husband asked me to please dress his wife, etc.

Grandmother died in August and guess what we found? Her style files.

So perhaps your grandmother had a similar brush with vanity in her youth? You got those transformation genes somewhere...

Jillian said...

I love that story and you told it beautifully. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one.