The mirror welcomed visitors to my grandmother's home, which was her mother's home, and her mother's mother's home.
Many have gazed into the mirror with their ever-changing reflections as they aged. My grandmother and mother grew up in that house, where they were greeted on the right by the hall tree adjacent to the door leading to my grandmother's room, with the phone table on the other side of that door. On the left, the little table with the mirror above it stood next to the living room door, followed by the line of shelves filled with books. All would stop on their way out, check the mirror to make sure they were ready, and walk out, sometimes without returning for a long time, if at all.
I barely noticed the mirror and table as I grew up. I was more drawn to the hall tree and telephone table. It is funny that when I grew up and had my own home, these four welcoming pieces were the ones I inherited. The phone table fell apart and died a long time ago, as did the rotary phones that sat upon it with the phone books stashed within. Those times are long gone; no need for a single place with a phone because phones are now appendages and lifelines that travel with the user instead of the user traveling to the phone. It is appropriate that the only piece that didn’t survive has no purpose anyway.
The other three pieces are still in use. The little table greets people as they enter the living part of our home (kitchen and family room). The hall tree that has a mirror and used to be outside our child's room in a former house, sat across from the door to my hobby room, where around the corner is the mirror that once hung across from it. The hall tree housed our children's corner with toys and books for when little ones come to visit. If I stand in my hobby room a little past the doorway, I am reflected in both mirrors, just as it was in my grandmother's house, where a person could be reflected in both mirrors at the same time. It has since moved to our son’s home and greets visitors as they arrive there.
As I look to the mirror, I see reflections of family pictures from years ago, with the people at the same ages they were when they saw their reflections in the mirror at 514. Above it, pictures of my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother look at the person staring in the mirror as they may have done years ago. They too saw themselves in the mirror as they came and went.
The mirror witnessed many good times and many difficult times, heart ache and heart break. Some who stared in the mirror worked hard to spruce themselves up, stand tall, take a deep breath, and face the world after many an emotional and difficult conflict. I heard some of these as I grew up. It witnessed the day my grandmother aged in hours with the losing of her teeth. She had once been the beauty of the family, mistaken for movie stars, and prided herself on sprucing up even after a heartbreak. This almost proved too much for her, yet, she endured past it.
It seemed that conflicts always started in my grandmother's room, across from the mirror. During one visit, I stood in the living room (which was across from Gram's room), sitting at the piano (which was on the other side of the wall with the mirror and also in our son’s home today), hearing my aunts and grandmother argue and make amends. I was glad that they did that. Sometimes it took time, yet the love was stronger than the conflict.
The entry to 514 welcomed all to a home filled with love and triumph, and said goodbye to those who departed because of the turmoil and turbulence of troubled, injured souls. Mental illnesses and addictions could be tough, especially when people did not understand them or have truly helpful services (not sure they have these today, either).
I believe when my family visited there from the time I was an infant through all of the four of us growing up, that house was the happiest. I remember all the varying relatives living there were excited to see all of us, and when we were there playing, I felt the magic and wonderment of adventure and joy. My siblings and I climbed trees, swung on the old swing, and watched the birds from the kitchen window. We would venture out back (not permitted to go into Mom's playhouse) into the barns and find lots of old stuff. Our games were all fairy tales and make believe, sometimes acting out plots of stories we read.
There were tons of pecan trees, and we would go gather the nuts and bring them back with us. We role played, enjoyed hide and seek, and pretended the dogwood tree branches were the mouth of an alligator, and it would capture people as they walked by, always aiming for a little brother. When we entered the house, we were greeted by the same furniture and comfortable feeling of peace, love, and safety. We were free to be kids and let our imaginations soar with stories shared by the relatives, books read to us, and being outside and inside. The home had spirit.
When I gaze into the mirror today, I know that all my relatives, known and unknown, their friends, their hopes, their dreams, and their eyes all gazed into this mirror. It houses the images and reflections of many, holding their secrets long past the existence of the people and the house. Sometimes I think they are still there, looking in the mirror as they enter and as they leave. I see them in the reflections as the past and present melt into one.
In the mind, time is timeless. There is no past because the past is still present. In the mind, past, present, and future all merge into now and no time. In the mind, our memory, our reflections and the mirror, all my loved ones are still alive. The memories keep them so. I am with them; they are with me; I miss their physical presence, but by sharing a single mirror from the generational heart to the entry/exit of the house, my today experience blends with the yesterday experience, including those before I was born and those who gaze into the glass when I am long gone.
People may brush off the meaning of family heirlooms, but something as simple as a mirror can bring generations past, present, lost, and found all into one being, time, and journey. It is where our journeys merge into one road, a common experience and reflection that was, and is, and is to come.
About the Creator
Nancy Nason Guss, a retired career educator, is Living with Gussto, a life filled with Books, Bagpipes, & Blogs. In addition to playing bagpipes, she's published pieces for all ages that process life's triumphs and tribulations.