My daughter is my shadow. Everywhere I go, everything I do, she has to be right behind me, or next to me. This is especially annoying to me in the morning, when I am hustling around the house trying to get ready for work, before I have been optimally caffeinated. She and the dog tangle themselves around me, watch my every move.
A usual scene on a weekday morning is me in front of the mirror in my tiny half-bathroom, my daughter’s reflection off to the side, staring at me as I put on my make-up. The dog lays at her feet just inside the doorway, making sure we cannot escape without imperiling our lives, or at the very least, our kneecaps (he never moves until we are trying to step over him, at which point he abruptly gets up, making us trip).
I carefully apply my eye liner and ask her what she needs, her reason for being in the bathroom, which is barely big enough for me and my elbows as I try to cover the bags under my eyes. She always replies that she needs nothing, just likes to watch me. I usually find this annoying, but this morning I had a flash of a different scene. Me, in my bathroom as a child, standing off to the side watching my mother dab little circles of creamy foundation all over her face, then blend them into her skin, her dark hair rolled up on top of her head in hot-curlers. Her little Mary Kay brushes getting wet under the faucet before she dipped them into those little colorful palettes of eyeshadow. That was how you did Mary Kay make-up back then. You wet, dipped, applied. She had similar pods of lip color and rouge. Different brushes used to apply each. I can remember how each of them smelled, how she smelled after she put it all on. How her hair fell in curls around her face when she unpinned the rollers. The smell of heated hair mixed with that powdery, not quite sweet smell of femininity. I remember not being able to wait until I got my own brushes and colors.
I wonder if my mom ever thought I was annoying as I crowded behind her, asking every few seconds what she was doing. I don’t remember her ever being angry or frustrated with me while I watched her, but that’s the thing about memories–they can change and soften over time if the person in them isn’t around to contradict your version.
I looked back at my shadow, my nine year old who will be able to wear her own make-up in a few short years, and decided to try and not give her any memories of me being frustrated with her. After all, she has enough of those already. Instead, I let her watch, then I turned, fixed her hair with a barrette, and hoped I’d be around in her later years, able to contradict any skewed memories she builds up in her head down the road. Memories of me in the mirror.