She stood gazing at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. It wasn’t so much that she was vain. It was more, incredulity at what she saw there. So many years had passed; almost unnoticed. There had been hardship and calamity, thirty-two years of marriage and a full-grown daughter, old dreams set aside and new challenges taken up; all of them seemed etched in her life-weary face. With the finger of her right hand, she slowly traced the wrinkles she found there. “When did I get so old?” She thought. Her hands then moved slowly to her stomach. A long pregnancy, hours of difficult labor, and an eventual “C” section had left her with a “pregnancy pouch” that mocked all her efforts to eradicate it. She knew it wasn’t true…even before she accused herself of it; but the frustration of hours at the gym without the rewards she sought pressed in on her and she couldn’t help herself. “Fat and old,” she declared to no one in particular. “Fat and old,” she declared again; more slowly…more sorrowfully as she closed her eyes.
Lost in her self-criticism, she barely heard him come home; the closing of the door like a distant echo from someone else’s reality. She responded half-heartedly when he called out her name. A moment later she felt his strong hands on her shoulders. She shook herself awake from her negative daydream, opened her eyes and saw him standing behind her; his face shining with that almost constant half-smile of his like he knew something she didn’t. The years had taken a toll on him as well. His gray and thinning hair framed a weather-beaten and care-worn face formed by years of hard work toiling as a carpenter, two falls from roofs that left him constantly battling pain in his back and joints, and the financial stress that comes from working hard to make the exact amount of money to be not quite enough. But then she noticed his eyes…his beautiful brown eyes. They were full of love and, even after all these years, a youthful passion. His hands moved slowly down her arms and over her breasts; not with a sexual intent that spoke of yearning, but with a comfortable intimacy that spoke of love and adoration, like an artist admiring the fine lines of a treasured sculpture. His touch communicated one thought and one thought alone, “You are the most beautiful woman I know and you fill and complete me.”
All at once she knew that he couldn’t see the wrinkles that so bothered her. And when his hands came to rest lovingly on her abdomen, she knew he had no consideration for her hated “pouch” as well. Allowing herself to become the “girl” she saw reflected in his eyes, she closed her eyes again and leaned back into his large frame; melting contentedly into his embrace. After a moment, she turned and wrapped her arms around his neck and as she did a new reality was born. With a youthful excitement that had been missing only moments earlier; she raised her lips and offered them to the beautiful brown-eyed boy that was now reflected in her eyes…a boy who loved her and would be loved by her forever.