The Magical Mirror

When I look in the mirror today, I see a woman’s face crossing over into midlife. The changes in the delicate skin around and within the arcs beneath her eyes are a little unnerving.

In my mind, I’m not quite there yet. I want to tilt the mirror to a different angle, modify the light, or wipe away the years with my sleeve like fog from a steamy shower.

Take in account, I’m about three weeks overdue for my hair color treatment.

When it comes to coloring my hair, I’m a do-it-yourselfer. I prefer that to the fuss and ticket prices of a salon. Every ten weeks or so, I go to the store, browse the “50 luminous shades” of Superior Preference L’Oreal, decide on medium brown—again—and head home to mix, shake, squeeze, and massage the contents into my hair until it’s piled on top of my head like whipped meringue.

But, for whatever reason, I’ve gotten a bit off schedule.

So, today, although I’ve disguised what I can with a little concealer, the woman in the mirror reminds me time is passing and it’s not to be taken for granted. She stirs me to wonder what’s inside me that I haven’t embraced or offered. As though it’s a magical mirror straight out of a fairytale, I want to ask “Is this enough? Is there something more important I oughta be focusing on?

I was given a magical mirror once . . .

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“It’s a magical mirror!” My youngest daughter, then five or six, excitedly announced as I unraveled the layers of tissue paper wrapped around her gift—a spoon with a pink ribbon tied around it.

With a giant grin, she’d handed it to me while I was sitting at the kitchen table. I can’t exactly remember what I was doing, maybe writing out a grocery list or reading. It wasn’t any sort of milestone or holiday. It was simply one of those “just because gifts” that lift and melt a mama’s heart.

“See, when you look close-up on this side, your head gets skinny and long,” she’d said as she picked it up and demonstrated, her eyeballs going cross-eyed as she practically put her nose right up against the side that curves outward.

“And when you flip it over on this side, your head turns upside down!” She exclaimed, bursting at the seams.

I wanted to run around and catch all the sparkles radiating from her excitement over this revelation and pour them all over me.

I’d amused myself plenty of times as a kid by looking at my distorted image in glass Christmas balls, but I can’t say I’d ever done that with a spoon. Certainly, at some point, I learned of its power for distortion, but I don’t recall ever putting it to the test with such intent and vigor. Not until my daughter wrapped one up for me.

After I gushed over her thoughtfulness and ingenuity with a great big hug, she skipped off, her thick blond, shoulder-length hair swishing like stage curtains, and headed back to the other room to join in on whatever her big brother and sister were doing.

It was a time for magic. Not the time to explain the physics of light waves to her. How an image is contorted when light strikes varying parts of it at different angles. How the curve in the spoon flips the light waves in such a way that when you look into it, you’re upside down.

Today marks the beginning of spring. Similar to those light waves bouncing off a spoon, the sun’s rays will bend and refract, causing nearly equal hours of day and night.

The earth’s equator will pass through the center of the Sun.

Plants will begin to bloom.

Animals will come out of hibernation.

And many of us—some in the midst of observing Lent in preparation for Easter—will renew our search for clarity, simplicity, and joy. Like the clarity and simplicity of a young girl tying a pink ribbon around a spoon, and the joy of her mother running around catching sparkles instead of lamenting in front of a mirror.


I’m Julie Jo Severson, mom of three and freelance writer and editor. This blog Carvings On A Desk is where I connect with my own voice. Click Here if you’d like to subscribe and receive the occasional stories I doodle about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace straight to your Inbox.

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About Julie Jo Severson

Julie Jo Severson, former PR girl, is now a freelance writer, journalist, editor, and lost-and-found attendant for two teens and a tween. This is where she doodles about past, present, future clinking glasses and making peace.

28 comments on “The Magical Mirror

  1. I could easily visualize your daughter’s excitement in the magic of the spoon and how the memory sparked your reverie on the joys and meaning of Lent. Very nice, Julie!

  2. I’m a little bit reeling at how similar our posts are in such different ways. It’s like the cavemen around the world, each drawing fire, this again thing, and seeing it through our children’s eyes, or something close enough. Thank you for linking up with Finish the Sentence. “It wasn’t the time to explain the physics of light waves to her.” <—- that was a wow for me, wondering all of the time and times what to explain or whatever to my son. You're amazing. Also? I SO WANT TO WRITE FOR YOUR BOOK. GAH.

  3. And… once again your words speak to my heart in SO many ways. First of all, what a PRECIOUS gift your girl gave you! And oh to wrap ourselves up in that zeal and zest for all that is magical and fill our own hearts with that sense of wonder and awe- oh to be young.

    We are standing tall in the ‘afternoon’ of life, my friend. (No no no nowhere NEAR the evening!!)

    The mirror speaks to me too…And shifts at different angles sometimes distorting who I am and other times magnifying who I’ve become. It’s an odd magical mirror! It can play tricks on me at times.

    Lent. I’m so glad you mentioned it and observe it and soak in its meaning and its duty. I LOVE how you described it. So very beautiful and meaningful in all the right ways… <3

    Let's look in the mirror together, my friend. Let's walk this road in the afternoon of our lives holding hands and peering at all that is in us and ahead of us… "But an angle that would shed new light on my purpose…" <— THIS.

    May we both shed those layers we need to shed and quiet those voices we need to quiet… strip off what is not needed and add what is. Lent will be fruitful for us both. I have a good feeling… 🙂

  4. How beautiful! I can picture her excitement as she hands you the magical mirror. I confess to not cherishing those “just because” gifts as much as I could have because those days are rapidly disappearing. (As are the days when any mirrors are short of magical). 😉

  5. This is beautiful – I love the magic in small moments, which sometimes we need a small person to remind us about the existence of. We get so easily caught in the not-important and the need-to-look, but I think spending a season focussing on finding magic and sparkle and LIVING instead of fretting, is awesome. I hope you have a super-sparkly Lent 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing your feelings of discovery and simplicity. I remember those moments of joy and wonder as my kids explored the mundane and made it magical for me. Best wishes as you head into the Lenten season!

  7. “I want to tilt the mirror to a different angle, modify the light, or wipe away the years with my sleeve like fog from a steamy shower.”
    What a marvelous image that I understand completely. I love that sense of if only we could wipe away the fog or change the angle… Thank you for this beautiful, thoughtful piece, Julie Jo. xo

  8. My daughter believes in magic mirrors herself, and now I do too!
    I also get nauseous from the upside down.
    This is really beautiful. I’m a professional photographer and I spend as much time taking photos of myself as I do looking through a mirror. They’re different and the same, but I’m learning all about changing the angles – or the perspectives.

    • Yes, I bet as a photographer, you have an amazing perspective and a trained eye to see the candid beauty in people and in moments at different angles and in different lights. You do such a wonderful job at combining your talents.

  9. I love being able to look through the eyes of children. I could picture her joy through your words. I think I’ll pull a spoon out of the drawer so I can see what it has to show me.

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