The Day my Face fell.
It was March 2, 2022. If you know me and have been watching, you might give this event an earlier date, but I first noticed that my face fell on the same day as the big hunks of ice on the side of the driveway slid down its ample incline, finally giving way from the warmth of the sun; It was also the day after Ash Wednesday, so that might have had something to do with it, too. Lent can do strange things to you.
My face falling, though, wasn’t completely surprising. It was inevitable. I am 63 after all.
I haven’t worn makeup in a couple of years. I gave it up for the pandemic. My eyelashes are thinning, my eyebrows are also sparse, and the deep lines above my upper lip that disclose years of smoking in my early adulthood have been around for a while. My hair has always been dark but now, what there is left of it, (also thinning) is more salt than pepper.
But my face. My cheeks. My neck. My eyes. It all just – sagged. And it seemed to happen on one day.
I’ve read female humorists on the subject- Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron both come to mind, and they are hilarious. But when it happened to me, it wasn’t so funny.
I felt like one day I looked ok, and the next, like the hag that waits outside of the Gingerbread House waiting to lure little Hansel and Gretel in for a look at the inside of her oven.
Wearing a mask for two years has either kept my face up, or it has hidden its truth from me.
The masks are off, now (except for my trips to the grocery store- I’m not quite sure why) and it’s a little disconcerting. Does everyone see what I see?
Last night my husband took an adorable picture of my big tom cat Wobbles sitting on my lap. He shared it on Facebook. (He’s in some special group for Episcopal Cat lovers. Yes, he is.) When I saw it all I could do was zoom in on my turkey neck and laugh lines and the jowls that hang over my shirt collar. Good Lord.
My mother aged beautifully. Tall, stick thin, hair always permed and combed out, neat nails, impeccable wardrobe, and a slick of lipstick. She looked great. Her face fell, too, but only her cheeks. There was a soft hollow on each side of her face that my children used to stroke as toddlers, sitting in her lap. They would make little plump fists and fit them right into the hollow of her cheeks.
There’s a war in Ukraine. There’s a new variant of the virus. I have 4 sermons to write for Holy Week. I will get over this or forget it.
The Day the Buddha Broke.
One time, about 25 years ago, we went out for dinner at the local Chinese restaurant in Brunswick, Maine. We were visiting my mother, as we often did on school holidays, and a trip out for dinner with our three kids in tow- toddlers at the time- was a big excursion. I remember some others, too, joining us. My brothers? Sister?
The restaurant had a buffet which we all eschewed. This was before sneeze guards, and the place was packed. Vacationers in Vacationland. We looked down on them, I think, which make no sense at all, since we also had traveled to Maine for vacation. Did it make a difference that we were staying at my mother’s house, in her guest room with the twin beds and old wash basin and pitcher?
After the chop suey and General Tso’s chicken and Moo Shu pork and Mai Tais, we made our way to the car. Cars. Surely, we had more than one vehicle for our multiple children and extended family. My mother paid the bill at the counter. The hostess pushed her credit card with its bumpy, raised figures through the machine on the top of the counter, pressing a receipt through carbon paper and making two copies- one for my mom to sign and leave with them, and another as her receipt. I waited with my mom as she worked this through, and I studied the many small buddha figurines in the glass case of the hostess stand. There was a shrine just behind the cash register, with a larger buddha figure, a small bubbling fountain, some silk flowers and three oranges, balanced carefully in a triangle. The little buddhas in the case were for sale. I hurried my mom out to the car and, at the door, told her that I’d be right along, I was going to use the restroom. She made her way out and I returned to the glass case and inquired about the buddhas.
I bought a 2-inch golden buddha.
I don’t know why. It seemed funny at the time, but I’m embarrassed to say that now. The buddha was shiny and fat and had a grin on his face. He held his hands up over his head, making the round of his belly look even rounder. He fit in the palm of my hand, and I held him with my fingers closed around him all the way back over the causeway to my mother’s island home.
The next morning I woke early, but not earlier than my mother. She was already at her perch in the kitchen, sitting in her cotton robe drinking coffee and watching the gulls and crows on the rocks at the water’s edge. The radio crackled in the background with the morning news.
I took the buddha from my pocket and, when my mother was not looking, I put it on the small shelf just over the kitchen counter. His shiny gold eminence surveyed the heart of this home.
My mother didn’t notice the buddha for some time. Grandchildren were waking, bottles and cereal were being prepared, breakfast was at full tilt.
When she did notice the buddha, she laughed. There was no joke, really. But it was funny.
Today, it would be inappropriate- a culturally and religiously insensitive act to appropriate a religious figure for the sake of a joke- and what was the joke, anyway? That a Christian home would have such an object? It seems stupid, now.
But my mother, it turned out, loved the buddha. He stayed on that shelf for years surveying her coming and going. When my mother moved off Great Island and into town to live in an apartment off of my sister’s house, she brought the buddha. He took up residence on the windowsill over the kitchen sink. He watched her coming in and her going out.
When my mother died, ten years ago, I took the buddha. I don’t remember if I asked my sister for it, or if I just took it. But the buddha came to Connecticut with me and sat on my kitchen windowsill, watching my coming ins and my goings out. When we moved to Pennsylvania, buddha came along. Our new house had a small pop out window over the kitchen counter with a shelf for plants – a mini greenhouse. Buddha sat there- along with a stone robin, a clay pinch pot made by my youngest daughter when she was in kindergarten, and a few colored glass bottles.
One day not long ago, the shelf fell down. The cat tried to jump up onto the shelf and it did not hold her weight. All was well, but the buddha’s little raised fist broke off.
I threw the buddha in the trash. I could not abide its brokenness and did not want it to suffer the indignity of super glue and a permanent crack. And so, I said goodbye to the buddha. It broke my heart as I heard myself saying out loud, “It’s only a thing.”