Regardless of the state of our eyesight, as middle age settles in, it is human nature that rather than seeing what stares back at us from the mirror, our vision tends to blur. I am nearsighted, terribly so, but the image I perceive isn’t caused by failing corrective lenses; it’s more as a result of “wishful seeing.”
Long ago my father said to me: “The problem about getting older is that your mind feels the same as it did when you were young. Then you look in the mirror.” Heeding his words, I try not to look too hard, often imaging myself the way I used to look, until once in a while the reflection startles me. In my brain, I feel about 29 or so. When I focused on the looking glass though, it communicates that I am slightly more mature.
Realization of creeping years hit slowly, starting with the time I was a guest for my niece's, elementary school show-and-tell project. She's my brother’s daughter, has the first and last name I used growing up, lives in the same house I did, and that year, was taught by the teacher I’d had in the fifth grade. It seemed like a fun story to tell. She invited me to visit the class and I brought a picture of myself when I was her age. After my photo traveled from student to student, one worried little guy raised his hand and asked the teacher, “Does this mean when we grow up we will all look different?” I swallowed hard.
That was something like thirteen years ago, and back then, I didn’t feel particularly “different.” Now, when my daughter teases me about my flabby chin and wobbly arms, or my gray roots start to show, sometimes I do—which makes me all the more grateful for what happened on Saturday at the cheese shop.
Let me set this up by saying that I’m not at my most, well, attractive, when working there. Hats are not a bit flattering on my small head, yet health codes requires me to wear one. I sport a pair of faded, washed and re-washed blue jeans because I don’t want grease marks on more than one pair of pants. I dress in my oldest, worn-out tops and cover the whole ensemble with an apron that early in the day becomes stained from stacking and slicing artisan meats.
In addition, that morning I was poking around before leaving the house and forgot to put on make up to cover my cheeks that glow fluorescent red due to an annoying skin condition. Back in the day, I wore contact lenses exclusively. Several years ago my eyes rebelled so it's been glasses ever since and sorry to say, there's more than a few additional pounds on my frame than when I actually was 29. Let’s just say that on Saturday; yup, I looked different.
Which is why I was delighted when a woman who grew up in my hometown, but whom I have not seen since graduating from high school, entered the shop for the first time. As this unfamiliar person approached me, I greeted her like any other customer, then gave a double-take as she marched right over, peered at me and asked “Liza?” I’m not sure who was more excited when I recognized her right back.
Every ache and pain as well as that rotten bathroom mirror confirm that I’ve been around for a while. Saturday, though, it was a relief to know that in spite of all my physical “experience,” a shadow of the original me still peeks out.