THE TALE OF TWO MIRRORS
by Lydia Irby 2010
Once upon a time, there were three bears, Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear. They lived in a lovely house in a clearing in the woods. Papa Beau was President of Honey Bear, Inc. and often out of town on business. Mama Brigitte had a very successful home based business. Baby Baji, was a beautiful young lady with a kind heart and a zest for life that was contagious.
One day, when Papa Bear was away on business, Baji asked Mama Bear if she could visit her friend Rachel Rabbit who lived deep in the forest.
“Why of course dear! Have fun and please tell Mrs. Rabbit that carrot cake was fabulous!”
“Thanks Mama!” she replied joyfully and gave her mom a big hug and a quick peck on the cheek. “Love you.”
“Love you too sweetie.”
Baji skipped down the path humming to herself and thinking of a new game she and Rachel might play in the leaves that afternoon. The fall day was delightful. The air was cool and crisp and the autumn leaves swirled in the slight breeze and slowly covered the ground in a blanket of orange, ruby, russet, and gold.
The path to Rachel’s house ran by the creek. Baji glanced into the water and greeted what she thought was another bear. “Hi friend!” Baji stopped to gather a few leaves to press in her memory book and a shiny object caught her eye. She walked closer, bent over and picked up a small gold, case covered with pink and purple rhinestones. “Ooohh!” Baji open the case and looked inside. She recoiled at the sight and almost dropped the little gold case. For inside, she saw a disfigured face with one eye, a nose, and a fringed ear. It was so grotesque she could not look any longer.
“My goodness,” Baji shuddered and thought, “Is this how I really look?” Baji had never really seen her image before. The river was too far away to think that the image was of the person looking into the water. “This is not good.”
So, instead of continuing on to the Rabbit residence, Baji slipped the gold case into her pocket and returned home.
She dragged her feet as she walked and avoided everyone on the way home, ducking behind trees, crossing to the other side of the path to shelter innocent eyes from what she deemed hideous. When she arrived home, she quietly slipped into her room and called “Mama I’m home.” Baji avoided Mama Bear for the rest of the evening.
The next morning, Mama Bear entered Baji Bear’s room to wake her for school. “Good morning Sweet Pea! Time to rise and shine.” Mama Bear bent over the bed to gently rouse Baji.
“Mama, I don’t feel well.” Mama Bear sat on the bed.
“Let me see if you have a temperature,” said Mama Bear as she reached toward Baji’s forehead.
Baji quickly pulled the covers over her head. “Oh Mama! Can’t you just leave me be today?”
“Well there is something going around. And it is Friday. An extra day of rest won’t hurt. Yes, Sweet Pea you may stay home today.”
Baji would not lower the blanket when Mama Bear leaned in for a kiss. Mama Bear gently caressed Baji’s head and left. Baji waited until she knew for certain that Mama Bear was gone before she moved. “How can they love me as ugly as I am? How can anyone care about a troll like me?” Baji began to question not only the basis of her parents’ love but all of her relationships and all the things she had ever been affirmed for. Her confidence plummeted as she wrestled with thoughts that maybe others pitied her and maybe she wasn’t as wonderful as everyone told her she was.
Baji moped in her room all day, half heartedly performing activities that normally thrilled her. Any time she heard Mama Bear’s feet in the hallway, Baji scurried and quickly hid underneath the covers.
“Mama would never understand,” Baji sighed, “She is so beautiful and talented. I don’t think she has ever felt the way I do right now.”
Mama Bear was concerned. She knew Baji wasn’t really sick, but if Baji was pressed to explain her malaise, their fragile relationship would go from terrific to terrible in no time flat. “Well, Beau will be home this evening. I’ll talk to him about this.”
In the meantime, Papa Bear was in the airport looking for gifts to bring home to his special ladies. He looked up and down every aisle in the Meadowlands Gift Shop and then the saw the perfect souvenirs—a beautiful amber and onyx ring for Brigitte and a small gold compact, covered with pink and purple rhinestones for Baji. “Perfect!” He had the clerk wrap them in petal pink paper and he ran to catch his flight.
When Beau arrived home, he was surprised by how quiet and dark the normally lively house was. Inside he saw Brigitte cooking a marvelous meal of roasted winter vegetables, and the delectable scent could be detected from 20 paces. He was glad to be back. “Girls, I’m home!” Papa Bear called.
Normally by now, Baji would have knocked him over with an enthusiastic greeting.
“Hi honey.” Brigitte greeted him sweetly. “I am so glad you are home safely.”
“Hello love,” he replied and greeted her with a kiss. “Have I missed much? And where is Baji?”
“Funny you should ask. She wasn’t herself today so I let her stay home from school. She has been moping around here all day and hiding from her shadow. That is not like her. Maybe she’ll tell you what is bothering her.”
“Sure, I’ll go check on her. But first I have a little something for you.” Papa Bear reached into his satchel and pulled out the smaller of the petal pink packages. He placed it both hands, bowed slightly and offered the gift to his wife. “For my queen.”
Brigitte opened it carefully, not wanting to rip the delicate paper. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, she opened the box. The amber and onyx ring sparkled brilliantly in the twilit kitchen. “It is beautiful. I had been admiring one like this in a magazine. Thank you darling!”
“Glad you like it dear. Now off to see Baji.” Papa Bear walked down the hallway towards Baji’s room, his familiar footsteps catching her by surprise. She had been listening at the door and was so busy trying to see Mama Bear’s ring that she forgot that her appearance might be upsetting to Papa Bear.
“Baji, my baby bear, I’ve missed you.”
Baji ran into her father’s arms, forgetting the hurtful images burned into her mind’s eye the previous day.
“Papa! Papa! You’re home!” She snuggled his warm neck and then remembered that she was hiding her face and pulled away abruptly.
“What is the matter Princess?”
“Hey, I have something for you”.
He pulled out the second petal pink package, held it in the palm of his hand, waiting for her to accept his gift. Baji, unlike her mother, opened the package quickly, ripping the paper and tossing it to the side. She opened the box, and when she saw the compact from her Papa, she froze.
“Go on, open it.” Papa Bear encouraged Baji to open the compact. It was like she was afraid to see the image she tried so hard to forget.
“Papa, am I pretty?”
“Baji, you are very pretty. Words cannot describe how beautiful you are inside and out.”
“Papa, do you love me?”
“Baji, of course I love you. I’ve loved you before I ever saw you and I love you more every day.”
“Papa, will you always love me?”
“Honey bear, I will love you until the end of time and nothing will ever change the way I feel about you.”
“Even if I wasn’t…pretty?” Baji asked haltingly.
“Yes Sweet Pea. Even if you had only one eye, a big nose, and a fringed ear.” Papa teased.
“Then it is true! I am ugly and you and Mama Bear have only been nice to me because you have to!” She pulled away and ran to the far corner of her room and wept. Mama Bear came quietly from the kitchen and listened as Papa Bear tried to console Baji.
“Baji baby. Come here and sit on my lap.” Baji slowly came and sat on Papa Bear’s lap and dried her tears. “Sshhh. It’s okay honey. Baji, honey, tell me– what makes you think you have one eye, a large nose and a fringed ear?”
“THIS.” She held out the case she found in the woods on the way to the Rabbit residence. Papa Bear opened it and Baji turned away. She did not see that Papa Bear too had one eye, a large nose, and a fringed ear for the mirror in the compact Baji found was broken.
Now Papa and Mama Bear understood the sudden change in Baji’s behavior.
“Baji, Sweet Pea, let me show you something.” Mama Bear sat on the bed next to Baji.
“I don’t want to look.” Baji tried to sound resolute in her decision but there was a hint that she might be convinced otherwise.
“Close your eyes and when I count to three, we will all look inside together.” Everyone closed their eyes and Mama Bear slowly opened the compact. Then she counted, “One — two– three!” and at that, three pairs of eyes opened slowly.
Baji gasped with glee. “How lovely! Baji saw her undistorted reflection in the mirror given to her by Papa Bear. “I really am pretty.”
“Yes Baji, you really are.”
And from that day forward, Baji saw herself as her father saw her, beautiful.
How is your self image preventing you from truly living?