The Brown Sisters

<p>1990, Woodstock, Vt.</p>

<p>2007, Cataumet, Mass.</p>

I keep thinking about these photographs documenting four sisters over four decades. We don’t know their full lives, only the age of their faces and bodies from one year to the next, all change subtle unless we skip ahead ten years. More, we see what remains the same: posture, gaze.

My husband tells me I look as I did when we married nearly a decade ago. I was twenty-four. I look firmly planted in my thirties, with lines at my eyes and mouth. My eyes are slightly different shapes, the right lid a little droopy, more so now when I’m tired. I am more muscled than I was ten years ago and marked by pale lines where my body gave way to pregnancy. I feel fuller.

I think differently about my body now. My younger impatience to straighten my teeth or smooth cellulite from my thighs or grow three inches taller (all by wishing) has given way to a kind of acceptance. I appreciate my body more. I don’t pretend to like what I don’t like but I am not anxious to change minor flaws.

Minor flaws: as per genetic code, accident, injury, life, carelessness, age.

This body houses me. When I look at the Brown sisters from one year to the next I get the same sense as when I glance in the mirror and see my mom. This body is not designed to halt at twenty-something. This body is made to carry me through all my years. When I look at the Brown sisters, I think of our fortune to grow old, to wear the sag of our flesh and the cut lines of our face. I also think how much I want to see our present beauty – conventional or not, secret or shown. I do not want a photograph to tell us what we missed in the mirror ten years ago.

Go read the article. Go look.

A Mirror

This prompt is from A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves: Write about a mirror. I wrote this on a writing date with two other women, one of whom wrote this prompt too. We wrote in two different directions. I listened to her after and thought, mirrors are rich for memory and metaphor. This here is from the other day, but I’ll likely revisit the prompt again and post more:

In the bedroom I shared with my sister, we had a narrow mirror framed in blue, nailed to our closet door. One night I was at my desk when Dad came in to talk. I turned around in the chair, straddling the seat. I kept looking at myself in the mirror: the slope of my bare thigh, the curve and cords of my calf. “Will you listen? Stop looking at yourself,” Dad said. I said I wasn’t. And he said, yes I was.

I looked at myself a lot. I leaned in to examine my pores. I stepped back and turned around, looked over my shoulder to see how jeans fit. I put my swimsuit on to see how my body looked, broken into limbs by a practical navy blue racer. I practiced my smile for yearbook photos. I tilted my head, parted my hair on the other side, put lipstick on that I didn’t wear out. I fogged the mirror with my breath and drew designs.

I still look at myself a lot. There are too many mirrors in my day: over the sink, at the door, on my visor; the plate-glass doors and shop windows I pass. I see myself full length and in parts. I mostly see myself in parts.