Always Real

That Face

“Mom, why are you making that face?” he asked. I detected a note of worry in his voice.  I was yanked up out of my dark thoughts and into the bright light of the moment. I stopped what I was doing and looked up.

My five-year-old was sitting at the breakfast bar eating a piece of toast. A circle of crumbs and jelly outlined his mouth.  I wanted to lean across the counter and kiss away the crumbs.  He was watching me wipe down the kitchen counter and load the dishwasher and attend to 99 other things I wasn’t even aware I was doing.

I had no idea I was making a face.  I was engrossed in reliving some old hurt.  I was playing the starring role in my own long-gone drama.  I was totally oblivious that I was even in my kitchen until Sean asked me why I was making that face, a face that he found troubling.  It was like one of those moments when you put your car in park and turn off the engine and then it occurs to you that you don’t even remember driving there.  You have no idea how you got there.

I stopped wiping the counter. I looked at him and cocked my head.  “What face?” I asked, “What are you talking about?”

“You are making your mouth in a line, like this — ” And then he pressed his lips together, the upper and lower disappearing into a straight white line. His mouth looked like the capital letter I on its side.  It was cute they way he did it.

“And your eyes are curly,” he added.


He nodded. He narrowed his eyes into slits and then peered at me through a ruffle of long dark eye lashes.

I sighed. I recognized that face.  I was busted.

“What were you thinking about?” he asked, concerned.

“Oh nothing. I don’t even know,” I lied.  I knew what I was thinking about. I just didn’t know why.  Why would a reasonable person dwell in a long ago moment of  hurt instead of a current moment of joy, where there is a boy within arms reach,  with jelly on his face?

I went into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, and made the face. The capital letter I on its side and curly eyes stared back at me.  No wonder his little heart was troubled.

By this time next year, I will be 50.  I have an age spot in the shape of Illinois on the side of my face and a growing flock of crow’s feet. Except for the scalpel, there’s not much to be done about the effects of the past 49 years.  Except to resolve to dwell in the present.

38 thoughts on “That Face

  1. I’m not sure how I first found your blog but you are a gifted writer. And now I’m a little self conscious. I’m sure I make ‘that’ face more than I’d care to admit. My girls’ favorite phrase these days, “Are you mad?” No, I’m not mad. But I am ‘something’ that shouldn’t worry the hearts of children. And you’re right. The solution of dwelling in the present is a great one. It may take a fair amount of retraining though!

  2. Sons do have a way of keeping us lined up, don’t they? And too busy to dwell on the past for very long. That is a good thing indeed.

    Please don’t remind me I said that later today as I am on my fifth load of laundry. It could get ugly.

  3. I’ve been told “your eyes are too far away” when I’ve absorbed myself in reliving past hurts (and coming up with the PERFECT comeback/insult/slam which eluded me at the time). Like the time…

    Nope. Not going there.

    Think I’ll go find a jelly-face to smooch. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. I, too, have been questioned by my daughter as to why I am making “that face” when I suddenly realize that I am reliving an old hurt. Why do we do that, anyway???

  5. My newest son is constantly studying my face to see if I’m happy. When he can see that I’m not, it disturbs him greatly.

    What a wonderful post and reminder to leave the past in the past.

  6. Age. What’s wrong with age? Forget the scalpel (I wasn’t sure if you were seriously suggesting it, or not).

    * * *

    I wasn’t suggesting it or not suggesting it, but merely stating a fact —

    “Except for the scalpel, there’s not much to be done about the effects of the past 49 years.”

    — meaning that “except for the scalpel”, nothing can be done to erase the effects of time. Although living in the present and having a good attitude helps.

    There’s nothing wrong with age. As well, I pass no judgment on women who opt for the scalpel. ~AM

  7. I remember saying, “I love you” to my mom just to hear the tone of voice she used to respond. She’d always say “I Love you” back, but I could hear anger, distraction, distance, etc. when it was there too. I’ve noticed that my daughter does the same thing today. When she does, it reminds my to treasure this little soul I’ve been assigned to raise.

  8. My kid has never called me on it like that, but I make that face quite frequently when I’m in the kitchen doing dishes (quite possibly my least favorite household chore). I relive old hurts and offenses all the time while doing work that doesn’t otherwise engage my mind. The enemy knows just how to jump in there and take me on a “joyride”. I’ve now gotten into the habit of putting praise music on while I’m working on mindless chores to help keep me focused elsewhere while I do them. God bless your little guy – what a sweetie!

  9. I think I’ve been making “the face” all day yesterday and today too. Only, I haven’t changed my attitude and outlook…

    Thanks for the 2×4 to the head. And I mean that in the best possible way. 🙂

  10. Don’t know why but as we grow older we have these moments. Don’t let the age spot bother you. THERE IS MAKUP or war paint. Now the age spot shaped like ILLINOIS well that is questionable. Enjoy Sean. Don’t sweat the other stuff.

  11. I love this post. I have dipped my toe into my forties and each day life erases another smudge of youth and there are lines, and spots, and other marks of age and I grasp at this beauty only to find it run like water through my fingers. So I have begun to ask myself, what is beauty, really? Because surely it cannot be made of stuff that is so temporary. And, in part, I am coming to the same conclusion that you have hear. To live present…to be aware of all that is beautiful in the moment…and to stay away from that mirror. There’s a reason our eyes grow dim with age. MERCY!


  12. I’d guess the face might be better than the tears that really bother my kids…………

    * * *
    The tears used to really bother my dog. She would crawl up in my lap and paw at my chest and lick the tears off my face and fret. Gosh, I miss that dog. ~AM

  13. I love the way you say things. I will be 50 this July and it is freaking. me. out. I can’t be half done! Already??? Deep breaths, deep breaths . . .

  14. Ahh… 49 for me in July… cycle has ceased, age spots encroach, wrinkles envelop.. but heart is softer, laugh is truer, grace abounds. I’ll take the trade-off…

  15. Hey, we worked very hard for the crows’ feet et al. I like ’em. I do not wish to look like Barbie.

    There. I said it.

    * * *
    Well sure, but I was trying to say that living in the present with the joy that is before you will do wonders for your countenance. ~AM

  16. I too am approaching 50, and my days of baby oil and iodine sunbathing are catching up with me. For me, it is my hands that look so flipping old. Good grief, whose hands are those with the granny spots!

    I spent mother’s day with mom. A woman who has dwelled, obsessed and lingered on hurts, slights and grievances of the past. It has ravaged her health, stolen her joy and caused her to be bitter.

    As much as I love my mom, this is one area I don’t want to emulate her on. The real irony is that her mother had a life time of tragedy, and walked in amazing faith and joy. Total puzzlement to me.

    * * *
    Indeed. We will all have tragedy and sorrow in our our lives and to some degree, we will choose what to do with that. ~AM.

  17. When I have that face, my boy says, “I love you, Mom.” I use it as a reminder to let those past hurts go and focus on the positive. It is hard sometimes, though.
    I, too, will be 50 by this time next year and want my face to reflect how I really do feel- not at all old and very young at heart. Letting go of the past and living in the present (of course with this wonderful kid!) will help me have the face I want to show to the world, not the “I love you” face. Peace.

  18. Thank you for saying what I think, so very often that it scares me. Some of the tears have helped them learn the difference between real pain and manipulation, but mostly I’m trying to focus on the gifts I’ve been given, not the ones I’ve lost. And I *love* that bread crumb and jelly circle – sometimes I don’t tell them it’s there so I can smile…shhh

  19. Urgh, I dwell on past hurts way too often as well. Luckily (?) for my daughter, they usually hit me at about 2:00 am, waking me up in an angry, cold sweat. At least she’s not a witness to it at that time!

  20. Just wait until you unexpectedly catch a glimpse of someone old and gruff in a mirror or storefront window and with a total shock to your system realize it’s you! I’m 20 years ahead of you and so, of course, am not feeling sympathetic to your aging plight ….trust me, the 40s are great!

    * * *
    My 40s have been the best years of my life so far, for many reasons, a sentiment I have expressed in many places. If you got the impression that I was complaining about that, you are misread. I wasn’t looking for sympathy. I don’t see my face as a plight; it is what it is. Perhaps my point was too subtle – Time is finite, I want to be careful how I spend it. I don’t want to disappear into an old slight instead of of enjoying the delight set before me. ~AM

  21. My son has asked me that question before. I’m always shocked at how perceptive kids can be. Sweet little tender-hearts…

    * * *

    Exactly. Children are so perceptive and in those moments, Sean is the teacher and I am the student. ~AM

  22. Like weathered trees we stand, sheltering our offspring from all we have endured.

    In the moment is the best place to be and while we’re there, we’re conveniently making their memories.

  23. Harry’s solution, when he sees “that face” (all too often nowadays it seems), is to take me by the hand and say “Come, Mommy. Come to my room and play with me. We can sit there quietly and not say anything at all.”

  24. (((Big Hugs)))

    I’ve been there. Even still, once in a while I’ll be lost in thought, somewhere in the past, and one of my big, teen-aged children will say, “Mom, are you mad at me?” I always feel badly about it and make sure I put on a face that fits the moment – as well as my feelings about the moment, them, and my life in general.

    Of course, they never ask this when I really AM mad at them. 🙂

  25. P.S. ~ in my kitchen I have a plaque that says,

    “Inside every old person is a young person wondering what the hell happened.”

    Makes me smile every day. 🙂

  26. Great story.

    I, too, struggle with not looking back at my past, trying to relive the what-if’s and if-only’s, hoping to redo some mistakes or get even with someone who hurt me.

    Paul the Apostle wrote: …”forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on…” (Phil. 3:13-14)

    If Paul had to make a conscientious effort to push through his past, then I’d guess we’ll have to do the same.

  27. I so get it, AM. What’s so sad about those trips back in time is that, when we go there, we should (italicized) be able to bump into God…and discover that He’s healed the hurt. That’s what He wants to do.

  28. I must concur~you are a very gifted writer! and I know that face, and I wonder just how many ugly or angry faces I make my children can conjure up in their imaginations? SCARY! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

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