Not normal anymore...
My mother is fancy, wielding a class even Grace Kelly would envy. She asked me out to eat, and I was thrilled. I donned my fake eyelashes and delicately placed a headband in the perfect place. I wore my cutest clothes and tried to dress up...even though I have cancer and am bald now.
We went to a restaurant I love. And I sat so excited, thrilled because they served lemon rice soup that day!
“You know,” my mom whispered, “that’s the owner over there! I’ve always wanted to meet him. I’ve heard he knows some people I grew up with.”
And taking this as some sort of challenge, as soon as the man walked remotely close to our table, I looked at him and said, “Are you from Price?”
“No, I’m from Greece.”
He hadn’t really understood me at all so my mom stepped in. “What she means is, do you know people from Carbon County?”
He instantly lit up and my mother and the owner of this fancy restaurant talked for quite a while about old friends and acquaintances. He even helped us at the register—a place where the hostess stepped aside so he could keep visiting. But it was at this moment something terrible happened....
My rose-colored glasses shattered, and I suddenly realized how everyone—except my mother—looked at me.
My reflection caught in the mirror behind the register. No hair, dilapidated walker in hand... Fading smile and dimming eyes. No long strawberry blonde curls framing a youthful face. This woman hunched, with a frailty that made me want to hold her. She seemed so very, very sick. Was that really me?
The owner didn’t look at me the way he would have months ago. You see, normally there’s this odd brightness about me. And it seems to invite others to lighten their load and give into joy and fun—even for a minute. Somehow in that reflection the brightness with snuffed, and as I realized this my own load felt too great to carry.
The owner studied my walker, his eyes wanting to know what’s wrong with me.
My mom helped me hobble to the door after that, and the whole time, one sentence came to me, “You’re not normal.” Really, why did this bother me now? I’ve never been normal. In fact, my brother always said I’m an acquired taste. So why does it hurt so damn much now?
My mom—that saint—the whole way home she told me how beautiful she thinks I am. Oohing and aahing over my earrings and saying how my lack of hair brings out my “gorgeous” cheekbones. She doesn’t see that reflection, the one everyone in that restaurant saw.
“I’m gonna run to the bathroom,” I said. But by run, I meant “trudge forward,” back bent, legs shaking. After I made it to the bathroom, I quietly cried into the mirror, and I prayed that God would get me through this. “God, keep me strong, and let me see myself through a mother’s love.” I wiped the makeup from under my eyes and told myself to quit being so weak. When I went outside, my mom had no idea what just happened. But I felt much better.
“Mom, can I put my head on your lap?” I asked her.
She nodded, probably wondering what was going on because I haven’t done that since I was a child. “Did you have a good night,” she asked as I rested on her.
“Yeah,” I said, “that was amazing how many of the same people you knew!”
“Leave it to you, Elisa. I never would’ve known had it not been for you.”
I smiled, then paused. “Thanks for loving me, Mom.”
“Thanks for loving me.”
And as I closed my eyes, I thought about reflections and how it’s okay to not be strong all the time. If I could just have one day to feel healthy—really healthy again—I’d appreciate it! I’d hike, spin with my kids—anything really. I guess the saying is true; we don’t always know what we have until it’s gone.