The Child in the Mirror

Updated on March 6, 2019

The Child in the Mirror

Many would have regarded her as the synthesis of outward perfection, conforming to all the standards of what was deemed to be a socially refined and successful woman who was impeccabily dressed, educated at the finest schools, and accomplished in music, art, and in social manners. She had returned to the house that she grew up in and stood looking for a long time at the dresser that was once hers, picking up old objects and turning them in her hands, which brought back memories of her youth and days spent. Soon she would be selling this house and all those memories it held for her.

Yes, there was much to be happy about, people would have said to her yet she felt something vital was missing within her- a spark of joy, light-heartedness and a feeling of freedom. She felt that something had died within her many years ago…the spontaneity of life, the confidence that some have to be themselves and not worry about what others think.

Her life had now changed quite dramatically. Her husband had died quite a few years ago and her only child, a daughter, who was now grown had recently married and moved quite far away. Although, they still communicated with one another, mainly by phone, she didn’t see her much-only once or twice a year. How she missed her! For so many years she was the center of her life. She thought that they would always be close but somehow things changed when her daughter moved away and she didn’t know how to account for it.

She looked out at the blue-gray sky with the sun hidden behind clouds, and her heart felt heavy in her chest as she walked about the rest of the house. Gone were her parents, the voices of laughter, and the songs on the piano being played in the music room by those that were once so close to her…now in their place only an... uninterrupted silence.

Where did the time go? She went back to her old bedroom and looked in the mirror. But, in the place of a young woman was now a woman well into her middle years with her hair graying at the temples, and instead of the radiant look of youth, she saw a look of despair in her eyes and lines on her forehead and around her mouth were beginning to appear. To the right of her face as she gazed in the mirror, she suddenly saw a shadow. It was moving closer to her. She could now see a faint figure of a little girl but when she turned to face it, it was gone…in an instant. Every time she returned to visit this house, she would see this shadow…a fleeting, darting figure of a child. From the few moments that it would appear, she could make out that the child had golden flowing curls and a sweet little face. She thought that she could hear laughter as it would appear and then disappear. Sometimes she would go from room to room and outside to see if she could find her but... she never could. Was it a ghost or just a figment of her imagination? The figure seemed more like an apparition instead of real- but she never felt fearful of its presence. Instead she had a sense of warmth and familiarity when it would appear.

She decided to go out into the garden. It had been a long and very cold winter and she was eager for a change- seeing something green would be welcome. Walking down the garden path, she noticed all of the dead vegetation that was everywhere and many small twigs scattered about. She hadn’t been to the garden for a long time since her parents' death. Remembering the fun times she and her daughter had planting both vegetables and flowers here and how her daughter would proudly march with them into the house so eager to show her grandparents, slowed her gait and caused her to pause. She noticed a thin green stem with leaves and a tiny bud that was just starting to open exposing some purple among the green foliage. It looked like it could be a violet. She remembered planting an entire patch of violets with her daughter next to an old rose climber. It was braced by a trellis and every Spring it would spread it’s vivid red blooms across most of the fence and it’s lovely fragrance filled the air. She remembered as a young girl looking out the big family room window when practicing the piano and her eyes always coming to rest on such beauty. Now she could only see dead canes there from this once prolific bloomer.

There was a swing on the back porch. Beside it was an old newspaper. She wondered if it had once been read by her parents or did the wind just happen to blow it there? She sat on the old swing and picked it up. It’s faint print and tears told her it was old. There was a large square cut out in the middle. She wondered if her mother had cut an article out to save it… or perhaps a recipe? She remembered that she was always talking about good recipes that she found in the paper and even sent her some. She sat on the swing with her hands gently folded in her lap thinking about the boyfriends that would often sit beside her there and the discussions they would have about school and their future plans. She could almost feel the cool and gentle breeze of those long ago summer days.

She remembered Charles, her beau, that she went steady with the longest of any of these old flames and who still held a special place in her heart. They would talk about their plans for the future. She would go on to study music at a conservatory and he would study astronomy at Princeton. He loved to look at the night sky and devoted much time to studying about the planets, the stars and about how it all began. She remembered the softness of his voice as he would say, “Sarah, I think it is getting late and your parents are probably waiting up for you."

After high school graduation, they corresponded for a year and then one day, it was if she just didn’t hear from him any more. She had heard from her mother that he had to quit school as his father’s business was not doing well so Charles quit his studies to work for his father. She didn’t know why their relationship came to an end. It was as if he chose not to see her any more- for one reason or another. And by then, she became so busy with her studies and new friends that they drifted apart.

As she swung absorbed in her thoughts, she heard something that startled her. It was a faint voice that began to grow louder as she turned her head in the direction that it was coming from. It was the voice of a child and there by the fence her gaze rested on a little girl of about five or so. She was calling to her and asking for permission if she could come into the yard. She walked to where the child stood and she could see that the child had been crying as her eyes were red and her face tear-stained. How much she resembled her own daughter when she was that age! She asked her name and where she lived.

“My name is Allison and I live next door to you and what is your name?" “Sarah,” she replied. “I love that name and you are such a pretty lady. You remind me of my mother who passed away about six months ago." As soon as she said it, she began sobbing and shaking as she tried unsuccessfully to speak. Finally, when her sobs ceased, she said. “ I miss her so much. It is so difficult now. My father misses her so much too! Sometimes, it seems like he doesn’t even notice me and I feel lost. It isn’t the same any more. He is always sad and I am too.

She invited Allison to come into her yard and she gently took one of her hands and placed it in hers and said, in a reassuring way, I’m so sad to hear this about your mother but you must give yourself and your father more time and although you will always miss her and of course, love her, you will feel less sad in time. Remember that your mother’s spirit will always be with you…even though she isn’t here and her love for you will never cease. Your father will also feel better in time and he will one day return to you as the father he once was.

The little girl then asked her if she could come visit her. “When I’m here. I’m not here most of the time. But, I could come here more often to visit you if you would like and we could have cookies and tea together. And even read stories together.” Sarah said. “I would just love that!” Then, Sarah invited her into the house and when Allison saw the piano in the music room, she sat down and ran her fingers up and down the keyboard. "Can you play something for me?” asked Allison. "Its been such a long time but I will because you asked me to,” said Sarah.

She started playing the Chopin Polonaise in A-Flat Major and the little girl just couldn’t conceal her amazement. "You’re fantastic! I wish I could play the piano like that! Could you teach me to play?" Sarah became so absorbed that she almost forgot Allison was there. She hadn’t felt like that since she was a young piano student determined to make the concert stage. All of her piano teachers had told her that she had what it takes but for some reason Sarah’s focus didn’t stay on the piano but went instead to her other studies. She started loving her literature classes and read books with a voracity that she had never known before. She decided that she would play the piano for her own enjoyment and become a teacher of literature which she did until her daughter was born.

Sarah suddenly stopped playing and thought about what this little girl had just asked. The only person that she had ever taught piano to was her daughter. “Yes she said, I would love to teach…you.” "My father would be glad to pay you if you don’t charge too much, that is. "We don’t have much money," and the little girl’s face turned red as she dropped her gaze. Sarah said, “i wouldn’ dream of asking you for money. I would enjoy having you for a student! Why don’t we meet next week at the same time and place, right here and we will have our first lesson. Then, Allison said, "I better go home or my dad may start to worry about me. Thank you, Sarah.” "Good bye Allison, until I see you again and have a good day."

Sarah thought about her meeting with this lovely but sad child and felt a strong connection with her. How good it would feel to share her gift with this child to help her through such a difficult time and build a strong bond with her! She walked back toward the house through the garden and stopped once more to look at the violet that she had looked at earlier. Now, in the sun it seemed as if the violet had opened up more and was ready to burst into bloom. Fragile yet strong, it had survived a number of winters and even neglect.

She thought about her life and how she would like to spend the rest of it. Maybe could start teaching piano and it would also encourage her to start playing again too. This seemed like a good way to spend her time... enriching the lives of others by bringing the gift of music to them. Sarah hoped that she and her daughter would become close again and she decided that she would go visit her and share some of the beautiful photos that she had found in the house of her as a child and forgotten about. She was thankful to her mother for keeping them in a dresser drawer along with a little note her daughter had written to her in crayon… the words “I Love You” were there in the handwriting of a young child. With tenderness, she folded the letter and kissed it before placing it in her pocket. How beautiful these years of such togetherness were and how she missed them!

But there would always be a child out there in need of love like Allison and she could share that love for her daughter with them. She thought about the little girl in the mirror…was it a memory of her daughter or was it a memory of herself? Reminding her of what she was like as a child when everyday held a new adventure and there was no end to what you could be! The little girl in the mirror beckons me to give my love…again.


Chopin Polonaise in A-Flat Major

In case you are unfamiliar with this piece for solo piano by Frederick Chopin, I thought that you might enjoy seeing and listening to this beautiful yet demanding piece requiring considerable virtuosity. It is probably one of Chopin's best known piano compositions.

The Shadow of the Child Turns Into A Light of Revelation

In the story we see that the shadow turns into light as it turns into a revelation. As Sarah has closed herself off for a part of her life due to her daughter growing up and becoming more distant to her, she is awakened to this truth and decides that she will engage in life again by loving other children. She would now turn her attention to those children longing to be loved and cherished and forget about her own sorrow. She would create another world of enchantment, magic, and love. Just as the violet, she felt within her a new life...blooming. Seen from a new light, sorrow brought forth a new understanding and a path to spiritual renewal.

On the Nature of Daylight by Max Richter

Questions & Answers

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      • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

        Lora Hollings 

        5 months ago

        Thank you Flourish for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful comment about my story. Often times, when our children are grown there is a void that we feel as we look back at the years spent with them and our lives were centered around theirs. As they grow, we feel very much needed. But then they grow up and it becomes a much different relationship. Still we can be close and be supportive but it isn’t quite the same. I’m glad that you could identify with the main character as I could too. There are many adults who do have the capacity for love and the time as well and there are so many children who are in need of love, guidance and emotional support. Often times, if we just reach out to others, we will not only be giving but receiving much in return.

      • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

        Lora Hollings 

        5 months ago

        Thank you, Dav, for reading my article and for your generous comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed the story and I found your perception of this woman who at this point in her life can make the decision to either go on alienating herself or to be involved with life again to be a very relevant one. Meeting this child was fortuitous as it gave her the opportunity to see what she was missing and a chance to aid another child by giving them a sense of self-worth and the support they need to overcome obstacles, especially, as this child has lost her mother. Throughout our lives, we are asked to reawaken our spiritual selves, so that we can find joy once more and share our gifts and love with others.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 months ago from USA

        Many adults have extra capacity for love and giving in their lives while there are so many children who need extra love, time, and guidance. It’s a matter of finding one another. This was a lovely, well-written story. I could identify with the main character.

      • Dav Underwood profile image

        Dav Underwood 

        5 months ago from Westerville, OH

        This beautiful story by author, Lora Hollings, represents the optimism and spontaneity we all experience as a child.

        It begins as a woman and mother reflect upon her life and asks the question "Where did the time go?” What unfolds is a masterful story of reflection, memories, discovery and a renewed faith in life as this woman returns to the home she grew up in and mysteriously sees the shadow of a child in a mirror.

        This woman's encounter with a child who lives in the neighborhood serves as an invitation for her to return to a better place in her own life. A place where she viewed life through the eyes and experiences of a child. A sense of loss of her own inner child who is the fleeting image of the child in the mirror and Allison’s need to have a mother figure in her life help her to see that life is repeatedly a process of spiritual renewal.

        Lora’s addition of beautiful music by Frederick Chopin and Max Richter further enhanced my experience. This is a compelling story and I shall share with others for sure.

      • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

        Lora Hollings 

        5 months ago

        Tim, I thank you for reading my story and for your thought provoking comment about the characters. I found your psychoanalysis of Sarah to be very interesting and be reflective of what we often repress about the inner hurting child who is trying to heal and at last finds peaceful resolution in helping another and at the same time now freeing herself to also move forward in fulfilling her needs and finding meaning in her life. I’m familiar with Eric Berne's transactional analysis and find it to be a very useful theory in looking at the various ego states within the individual. A very insightful comment, Tim. With much respect and admiration, Lora.

      • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

        Lora Hollings 

        5 months ago

        Thank you Carole for reading my story and for your gracious comment. I’m happy that you found this story not only to be about sadness but about hope, renewal, and love. In the end, that is what Sarah has made a conscious decision to do... to rekindle the hope, the dreams and love that were for such a long time missing in her life and by helping a child who also is in need of emotional healing and finding her way in life.

      • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

        Tim Truzy 

        5 months ago from U.S.A.

        Wonderful story, Lora. The adult within develops as a result of what the child within endured, and only the adult within can make peace with the inner child. As I read this story I thought about Transactional Analysis, the psychological theory where we get the ego states of the child, the adult, and the parent. Perhaps, Sarah was looking for that inner hurt child in the mirror. Alison is a representation of a chance to heal that pain and make things right for the adult Sarah is today.

        Excellent story. Beautifully written.

        Much respect and admiration,

        Tim

      • Lora Hollings profile imageAUTHOR

        Lora Hollings 

        5 months ago

        John, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your insightful comment. I’m complimented that you liked my story! I agree with you that in many people’s lives that their children now grown and leaving their childhood home does leave an emptiness in their lives. But, we can fill this gap and still continue to see other lives nourished by sharing our gifts with others whether they be children, teens or adults. We all have something to give even if it may not be readily apparent- any skill and even emotional support can be very helpful and make a critical difference. Volunteering at schools, churches, nursing homes in your community can be very rewarding and have a real impact.

      • Carole-Emb profile image

        Carole Emb 

        5 months ago from UK

        From the negative can emerge the greatest positive. Thank you Lora for sharing this.

        It reaches in..grasps and then covers the reader with a soft blanket of sadness and regret, finally with hope, renewal, and love.

        C

      • Jodah profile image

        John Hansen 

        5 months ago from Queensland Australia

        A lovely story, Lora. When our children grow up and move away from home it is often difficult to deal with the hole they leave in our lives, and often families drift apart and no longer have regular contact. We need to find other things to occupy our time so I life is still fulfilling. Fortunately, Sarah had that opportunity.

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