A brief, fragmented exploration of what growing up really means, both personally and culturally.
The bathroom mirror was best washed withWindex. I know this because cleaning the bathroom was the chore that filled the Tuesday slot on the chart on the supply closet under the dust-mottled title: CHORE CHART. I know this because my chores were colored in pink on the key to the side. I know this because I had designed the spread of chores under Mom's direction.
Christmas Eve! Not so eve-ish that it's evening but the day part, and the Roland's are coming soon. The Rolands: all about six feet taaaaaaaaallllll and all gorgeous and all judging if I do chores. They know they are the model women who work hard. Do I do chores? I do! The chart says so in pink on the door. Mom doesn't even ask. I will make HER proud and PROVE to the Roland's that I work too. Clean the bathroom. The tub--oh my arm hurts!--the sink--soap encrusted hairs in glumps of mornings brushing hair at the sink!--the floor--run dust fuzzies run!--the cabinet--oh all these Q-tips in the way!--and the mirror. I can see myself. Not so pretty as the Roland's. When we go Christmas caroling tonight in Boston people's heads will peep out of fancy building windows because the Roland's have beautiful voices and beautiful faces. But my Mom is just as good as their Mom. I work hard too. I designed the chore chart and I can wash the mirror just as good as anyone. Windex on that mirror that (head resting on rim) shows those zits. That non-entity of hair--Those fish eyeballs--and the toothpaste! Gah.
The toothpaste got all over the bathroom mirror because the siblings fought over who got to use it while brushing their teeth. I know this because I was the sibling who always got shoved out of the way by Marianne, who thought the world revolved around her. Mom always said the world never rotated around any of us, and though we know this--over hear it over hear it over--we fought for the bathroom mirror anyway. And it got those tiny flicks--wads of germy spit!--of toothpaste.
So we brush our teeth in unision--years after high school we discovered this. Marianne and I, I back home from college, found that we still do. We sort of have a rythmn going: Front to the side on bottom left, front to the side on bottom left, back to the side, back to the side, up up up up plaque away on the left back up, plaque away on the right back up, and ssschhh-A- ssschhh-A-ssschhh-A- GRIN in front. Then--mad scramble!--for out the door and out to high school. Mom takes Marianne to her school and we make funny faces gooooodddbbyyyy (out goes the tongue). And Max and Libby and I all go to high school--my senior year--and drag out tunes like Singing in the Rain! And it sort of makes me sick to my stomach when I come home from college and discover that Marianne and I still brush our teeth in unision but we don't get to make faces and there is no singing in the rain. There is just the bathroom mirror still there and I am sort of an amorpheous object in it--creak it open, and what would you see?
When the bathroom mirror cracked open at 1:00 a.m. it meant that someone was sick. I know this because our house is small, because we are tucked in with love into closet-esk spaces, and if one of us is sick, we all get sick. But if the fridge sunctioned open with the light and the waaaaahhhhhh sound it made, it meant that Dad was sick. I know this because he keeps insuline in the cheese box. I know this because one night I came home late and saw him sucking an orange and sliiiiiiiiicccccceeeeee my heart went too. Orange pulp everywhere. I knew I know I knew I know? That Dad is getting older.
They are--we are?--no way--we all--are old (too old!) Too many faces that don't care if the Roland's are prettier and know what it means when Dad eats oranges in the middle of the night. We are old like chore charts that don't apply because we are too old to have to be regulated. Now--may I help you? Can I help you? Being willing helpers! Look in the mirror and see? I know the mirror cleans best with windex. I know because I've cleaned it, and somehow that means I see the face of a woman.