Time confuses me more as it passes. It used to be so linear. Babies were young and old people were old. Now, I’m not so sure.
April 1st would have been my Grandpa Mondloch’s 122nd birthday. I never met the man. He died in 1935, only 35 years old and the father of four young children. Nearly a century later only one of those babies is still alive. Grandpa is still here though. I look in the mirror and see his hair, that thick mass with its cowlick making it flip up and back, 35 years on his head, 92 on my father’s, and 50 years so far for me. Reminds me that no matter how old I am I will always be my father’s little girl, Grandpa’s grandbaby that he never knew.
Mirrors are such great gifts and horrible curses. I don’t mean just the mirrors on the walls, but all the mirrors. Every time we look into the eyes of those who show us ourselves we see both the beauty and the evils. I’m lucky. Most of my mirrors either show mostly good things or are so old, cracked, and dirty they don’t show much at all.
My people were farmers and ran small businesses mostly related to the farms for generations before my own. They worked hard, went to church, and raised families in pretty simple, mostly loving communities. They came here to Wisconsin from Luxembourg in the mid-1800’s. I don’t know what brought them. I suppose it was the search for land, money, a better life. I wonder if that first generation ever felt they found what they sought?
There were hard times, no doubt. But when I look in the mirror I don’t see that. It is so small in comparison to the whole of their lives. That is a gift. There are other mirrors.
Somewhere in my family’s history we identified as Jewish. We’ve lost that identity in the past two hundred years. Sometimes I wonder why? What would I see in that mirror if it weren’t so dusty, broken, and old?
Then I think of the others who hold the mirrors of their identities that have faced greater struggles than my own. Each piece of our beings reminds us every day of our ancestors and the lives those ancestors lived tell us who we are. Growing, surviving, thriving despite the scars seen in the mirrors left by boarding schools, slavery, senseless violence of a thousand varieties.
Do mirrors make us weaker or stronger? Are our hearts simply broken by the pain and anguish that we see or do we notice that spark in the ancestors’ eyes and feel the fire grow in our own hearts and gather up the strength that they sowed?