Have you ever held an antique camera in your hand and thought about all the places that camera has been? Thought about all the pictures that camera has taken? What about a vintage book? Have you ever thumbed through its yellowed, dog-eared pages and thought about all the souls its passages have stirred?
I wonder. Antiques always make me wonder.
I have a vanity sitting beside my bed that I use as a nightstand. It was originally purchased by my paternal great-great grandmother as a gift to her daughter (my great-grandmother) when she got married. Then my great-grandmother handed it down to her daughter – my grandmother. Then my grandmother handed it down to her daughter – who is my aunt.
I am named after my aunt and so now it resides beside my bed. I am the fifth generation to gaze into its mirror.
I know. That’s a lot of hand-me-downs. Bottom line: it is really REALLY OLD.
And I wonder. That antique mirror and vanity always makes me wonder.
I wonder what my paternal great-great grandmother was feeling the day she purchased it for her daughter who was about to get married. Was she joyful or was she anxious? And did my great-grandmother squeal with delight over the gift or did she reach for her handkerchief as she teared up?
And I wonder about my paternal grandmother after it was handed down to her. How many times she must have gazed into that mirror while my grandfather was storming the beaches of France during World War II, worried about his safety. Would he come back?
He did come back. Wounded. And he would never be the same.
And I wonder about my aunt, after whom I am named. Did she ever gaze into that mirror and wish for a daughter? Has she ever been disappointed in me – her namesake?
They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. And it is such an other-worldly experience to gaze in to a mirror and know that your ancestors sat on that exact bench and stared into that exact mirror and that the reflection currently staring back at you used to be theirs. As I gaze at my own face, stare curiously into my own eyes, I imagine looking deeper … looking beyond … seeing into a past now forgotten … gazing into THEIR eyes and into THEIR souls.
And I swear … sometimes I catch a wink and a smile that does not come from me.
But then again, I am a Southerner.
And we Southerners are known to exaggerate.