Throughout history, mirrors have had an interesting appeal. As a looking glass, mirrors have been thought to possess magical powers. They have been known to tell who is the fairest in the land, and alas, who isn’t. I’ve often imagined what it would be like to live in a place where mirrors don’t exist. It must enable a perspective on life, of solely looking out. When I pause to look into the mirror, on the other hand, I tend to look at my imperfections- at least, I used to.
To confront these imperfections, I found myself with little piles of lotions, ointments, mascara and lip balm. And so I decided to purchase an actual dressing table. After some searching, I settled on a writing desk, painted with bright, fun colors. It could hold items inside the drop- down lid area, and it left me with space on top, as well. What it was lacking, however, was a mirror.
I scoured the usual local department stores for the perfect mirror, but everything was too big, or too stylish. All I truly wanted was a simple mirror. So I determined that a trip to the antique district was in order. With my wonderful mother-in-law in tow for inspiration, we were on our way. The drive to Arcadia was transformational. After just a few stoplights, and an underpass, we moved from sounds of tires, horns,, and swishing of cars to birds chirping, trees rustling, and a far- off stray cow announcing its presence. As I approached the stretch of antique shops, my mind was already in another time and place.
The first store we entered had the familiar musty smell. The door creaked as I stepped into an era of forgotten items. Glass lamps, large wooden cabinets, bowls, china, and jewelry no longer worn, greeted me. I circled through the shops like a foreign visitor, admiring the goods of long ago.
When I had almost given up hope in finding a mirror- there it was, hanging nonchalantly on the wall, among old pictures and plaques! It was an 1880’s mirror; about two feet long and 1 foot wide, which I assessed would fit perfectly above my desk-dresser. It had a one- inch curved wooden frame with beveled edges; it was simple, but elegant at the same time. The price was right, so I wrapped it in a soft cloth, put it into the trunk of my car, and headed home.
I eyed the distance above the dresser and tapped the hammer as the nail confidently took its place. I gingerly hung the mirror and sat down proudly, enjoying my latest conquest.
Then something unexpected happened. As I sat admiring the clear shine of the glass and the deep warm wood of the mirror frame, I suddenly became aware of all my predecessors who had done the same thing, many many years ago. Did a young woman glance into this mirror just before her wedding? Did a distraught man adjust his hat before going to a funeral? Did an aged woman cry hopelessly while looking into the mirror, searching for answers? Did a playful mother bounce a baby on her knee, while laughing and making funny faces? The essence of those before me was evident, and their presence surrounded me like a warm blanket.
This ‘looking glass’ is much more than a mere reflection of myself. It is a connection to humanity. No matter the time or place, we are all human. When I look into the mirror now, I don’t see myself, with all my imperfections, instead, I see the heart of us all. It has become a window to the soul. So rather than groan and fuss over myself in the mirror, I happily approach each glance and primping with a sense of belonging. I learned that being the fairest of them all requires an understanding that is truly skin deep.