|Martha loved to look into the mirror|
When I was young, my mother would endlessly read (complete with theatrical voices) to satisfy my voracious appetite for stories. It's hard to tell who had more fun.
Among my favorites were James Marshall's books about George and Martha, two hippopotami with a complicated relationship. Each story came complete with a lesson of how to deal with the vicissitudes of friendships. Hippopotami, you see, often come into conflict when they don't meet each others needs or have trouble seeing the same situation eye-to-eye.
In one particular story, The Mirror, Martha was shown to be a hippo who was entranced with her own image in her mirror. In fact, she would wake up in the middle of the night and gaze at her beautiful reflection. She'd giggle about how fun it was to see and appreciate herself.
Perhaps Martha was having a vanity crisis and needed a little extra validation? I'm not sure. If she was my friend I would have been sure to tell her how much I appreciated her.
Anyway, George got a little annoyed with all this mirror gazing (perhaps he wanted to be seen too, we'll never know as that action took place off the page). He devised himself a clever little plan to teach Martha a lesson.
George snuck into Martha's room during a rare moment she wasn't gazing at herself and tapped a grotesque picture over her mirror. Martha gasped when she saw the reflection.
How could Martha not have been horrified at such an image? She cried out over her grotesque image wanting to know what has happened to her. George, being the rascal that he was, said this is what happens to us when we spend too much time looking at our reflection in the mirror. Having learned her lesson, Martha made the vow never to look at herself in the mirror again.
As an adult I've learned that mirrors are much more complicated technology. Sometimes I look into them and see imperfections, other times I see distortions, and still other times I see a self-aggrandized view of my own handsome good looks.
Crawford writes in her blog that "the first literal and metaphorical mirror we encounter is the gleam in the mother's eye." My mother likes to tell the story that when I was young I was always sit backward in my stroller to look at her. I couldn't begin to imagine what my experience was. Perhaps I saw her, or found comfort in seeing a familiar and reassuring face, or maybe it was that I saw myself reflected back and was comforted by my own image?
I suspect Martha the hippopotamus was lost in her own funhouse mirror of reflections. I'd like to think that through George's practical joke, Martha was able to shake herself loose from those distortions and help her see something more important: how she could see herself through her impact on those around her.
Mirrors aren't so bad. It's just they are complicated and we are never really sure what is looking back at us. The mirror is a great place to start looking if you are looking for change.