Monday, November 23, 2009

The Watercolor Portrait

I am not really sure why but I know this happens to me when I look into the mirror. I see what I want to see and what I see is this: a young women with long ash brown hair, streaked with golden highlights from the sun, that falls below my shoulders. Is it my eyes that deceive me? Is it my brain that deceives me? Is it both? Maybe this is why I am always shocked into reality when I see a current photo of myself. This is what I see: a middle-aged women, who is rapidly and horrifyingly approaching 50, with short silver hair! Oh come on? Who is playing this trick on me?

Now I know why my parents reacted the way they did when they received a watercolor portrait of themselves. A portrait that my oldest sister, who is a talented artist, painted as a gift for them. It really was a great portrait but I am afraid that my parents didn't think so. I remember when they received it, they were speechless. This is something that is not a good sign in our family because usually, or rather rarely ever, are we unable to speak (it's a curse, actually). I don't even think they could say thank you. Instead, they did a curious thing. They hung it up, but not in the right place. They chose a place on the wall outside of the bathroom that was located on the third floor bedroom but by this time it had become an abandoned area of the house. It was a location that had once been alive with activities of my oldest sister since it was her bedroom, then it morphed into Dad's office/guest bedroom, and now, at the time of the portrait, it was not even heated since they shut off all the vents. My sister was crushed, but I get it now. For them the portrait was too real. It wasn't like gazing at yourself in the mirror where you can let your eyes and brain deceive you. It wasn't even like looking at a snapshot where you can reason away any blemishes by blaming the lighting or the angle. There is no deception when you view yourself through the eyes of someone else. That is exactly what happened. My sister captured them so precisely that it horrified them. In fact, it horrified all of us because it was what it was: a portrait of my elderly parents. Why did it take a simple portrait to shake us into this reality? Denial is a funny thing.

I selfishly and vainly wonder how my children view me. My middle daughter is an artist, too. Should I start now by only giving her young looking photos of myself so that when she decides to paint a portrait of me she will be so brainwashed into thinking that I am forever young that she will have no choice but to capture me that way? Not a bad idea but really I'm okay with the notion of her painting me as she would see me (okay, maybe not now because I am not her favorite person at this moment and I know the portrait would be seriously skewed, I may not even have eyes and my mouth might contain fangs!). In fact, I will welcome it......just wait a couple of decades.

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