My nephew loves mirrors. He’s only one, and has always loved looking at his own reflection, marveling in the smiles and laughs that this “friend” on the wall is always mimicking back at him. He absolutely delights in it, and no matter what kind of tantrum or trauma may be going on, putting a mirror in front of him will always make him smile.
One of my favorite things about doing this with him is the way he will recognize the person holding him before realizes his own reflection. In many ways, it is the other person—not himself—that serves as his realization that he is looking not at someone completely different, but simply him. He was around seven months old when he first turned toward me, away from the mirror, and leaned forward and peeked around, looked at me, and grinned—just checking to see if I was the same person he was seeing in the mirror. His face, looking around at me with a tentative smile while I hold him, was one of utmost innocence and fascination at the simple realty of his and my own existence.
As he grows into toddler-hood, he is becoming more and more cognizant of the world around him and is growing wise to the mirror trick. We all stayed at my parents’ house this past weekend, and at one point, during a “But-I-waaaannnt-to-dive-headfirst-down-the-basement-stairs-and-I can’t-believe-you-just-stopped-me” fit, I picked him and carried him toward our old friend, the mirror.
He laughed, and we laughed together. At ourselves, at our presence here and now. And then he leaned forward and peeked around. As his little face appeared before me, with that inquisitive and inquiring look that I know so well, I was struck by that moment and how quickly those moments go by. How soon he will understand all about mirrors, and how much our reflections will both change.
Those we love often serve as our best kind of mirror. Not only do they reflect our harsh realities and our lovable flaws; they peek around the corners, checking to make sure we are still really there—that who they know and love is still intact. In many ways, they are the ones that serve as our most accurate reflection. In our daily lives, we may see ourselves in a distant way, removed from who we are as we put on make-up, quickly fix our hair and run out the door.
But only when those we love take the time to hold us in front of a mirror, do we really stop to notice our reflection. And no matter how much it may change, they can always peek around and see us. If we are fortunate enough to have those family and friends in our lives that take the time to remember to lift us up from time to time, we are lucky.
I am lucky, indeed, to have that beautiful boy, four gorgeous nieces, two nephews and a multitude of family members that continuously hold me up to the mirror and remind me of my own reflection. And even luckier still to have friends to help me figure out what it all means, and to love me through my own restless wanderings. For it is their reflections—and not my own—that serve to remind me of all that I am.