By Lynn Goodwin
“You’re just like your father,” spoken in a sing-song disdain is a refrain from my childhood. Auntie Deloris and Uncle Art confirmed it. And once when I was in my late teens, Art added, “It’s nothing to be proud of.” I couldn’t see how we looked alike, but I couldn’t see myself in the mirror either. I only saw a reflection.
I was thirty-five when I was cast in the role of Mom in Sam Shepard’s TRUE WEST. I grayed my hair, drew in the lines where my wrinkles would be some day, and put on the beige dress that the costumer had found in a thrift store.
The makeup lady said, “Your wrinkles aren’t dark enough.” She turned me away from the mirror and I felt her pencils revising my face. I didn’t mind. If I was putting on a role, I might as well costume my face too. Hide behind a mask. Become someone else.
When she took the towel off my dress and spun me around, there was Grandma, staring back at me. For the first time I could see it, and I knew what I would look like someday, if I lived long enough.
I don’t remember ever having a conversation with my grandmother, who died in 1957. But maybe I could imagine myself talking to her now through that image in the mirror staring back at me.