When you pass a mirror, do you deliberately walk on by, or do you make a point to look into it?
The Evil Queen in the tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” stared with vengeful intent into a mirror and chanted, “Mirror, mirror on the wall/Who is the fairest of them all?”
Mirrors, which can either reflect and distort, have been a valuable image for both writers and painters, like Norman Rockwell, for instance.
Painter Norman Rockwell captured the culture of mid-twentieth century America, noting passages in a girl’s life.
The pretty, brown-haired girl staring into the mirror with furrowed brow, appears to be analyzing her appearance.
According to Rute Ferreira in Daily Art Magazine,
The girl looks apprehensively at the mirror. On her lap we see an opened magazine showing a photo of the actress Jane Russell, who alongside the diva Marilyn Monroe, starred in the fun movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. At her feet, the girl has a comb, a brush and a lipstick (red, of course!) While in the corner of the mirror, we see a forgotten doll discarded without much care.
What is she thinking? Maybe this, “Is it time to grow up? Or, “Am I attractive enough?”
However, the author says otherwise:
The model, Mary Whalen Leonard, [probably a neighbor] says that despite the way the painting was understood, she was just enjoying herself. She was not comparing herself to the movie stars or leaving her dolls aside for dreams fueled by red lipsticks.
Perhaps as muse, Mary responded to the artist’s coaching, resting her innocent adolescent face upon her fists, simply following instructions.
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The young woman in another Rockwell work, The Prom, is older, imagining in the painting being all decked out in a dress she will probably wear only once. This model, caught Rockwell’s eye, telling a different narrative. According to writer David LaBelle, author of The Story of Rockwell’s Forgotten Model, Cathy Smith was selected from hundreds of junior high students in West Hollywood, California.
Cathy Smith was a 14-year-old junior high school student living in West Hollywood in the fall of 1948 when the famous illustrator—who was working in Los Angeles to escape the snowy, cold Vermont winter—approached her at school and asked if she would model for a Post cover.
There’s lots more to this story, which may raise some eyebrows with 21st century readers. You can find it here.
Now 86, but looking decades younger, Cathy Burow—her married name—laughs about her fleeting fame. “At the time, I thought it was a big thing. Most people knew of him [Rockwell] then. Most of my life I’ve been a little bit famous. In 1949, I had my 15 minutes of fame.” Burow says most of her friends have passed, and she doubts younger people know or care about Norman Rockwell or The Saturday Evening Post.
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A Granddaughter and a Mirror
At age 11, I asked my one and only grand-daughter Jenna to pose with a lavender-framed mirror, celebrating the beginning of 2016, and my choice of focus word for the year. If you are curious, here is the link!
A few years later, friend Sandra Cornelius gifted me with a mirror, this one with words painted on its pink frame, “You are beautiful!”
My friend Sandra Cornelius gave this to me on my birthday. Here is the story in her own words:
I had breast cancer for the third time, every 13 years beginning in my late thirties. The first time, in 1983, I went into a nationwide study and was chosen for breast conservation surgery. I had a partial mastectomy followed by radiation. In 1996 the study was complete and the parameters of my cancer qualified me for the same treatment I had before, but this time in the other breast. When I was diagnosed with cancer the third time in 2008, I knew I needed to have a bi-lateral mastectomy. As surgery day approached, I was feeling a little sorrowful that breast conservation was no longer an option for me.
Our friends, Carolyn & John, suggested we take a day at Fernandina Beach together before the surgery. We had taken a day in Daytona together before my first surgery. We walked the streets of the old town together. Shops were closed since it was Sunday morning, but one window caught my eye. It was the year of the “Save the Tatas” slogan. That had been my slogan up until now. There was a window display of pink t-shirts, hats, etc., displaying “Save the Tatas.” I paused and said, “Sorry, no more for me. I’ll be saying goodbye to my tatas this week.” I was confident the Lord had led me to choose the bi-lateral surgery, and I was trusting Him. We walked to a restaurant and ordered lunch. I was still feeling sad but was having a great time and enjoying meaningful conversation with our very best friends. I excused myself and a waiter directed me to the restroom and that’s where it happened.
The entrance to the restroom hallway had a brightly colored beaded doorway. I smiled at all the bright colors and pushed through all the strands of beads where there were more colors decorating the area. I was somewhat relieved to see there was an actual door to the ladies’ restroom. When I opened the door, I thought I could have been transported to Key West! The walls were decorated with tropical trees and flowers and birds, one of which was a very large parrot near the mirror. The toilet was sitting on a raised platform in one corner of the room like a throne. I laughed and proceeded to take care of business. When I sat down, I saw it. Facing me on the opposite wall in large brightly painted colors on the large mirror, “HEY BEAUTIFUL.”
In that moment, looking at my reflection in the mirror, God reminded me of the essence of real beauty. Not outward but inward beauty, the kind He develops within and desires. I said to myself, “Hey Beautiful. Thank you, Lord.” The sorrow evaporated as God reminded me of what He sees as beautiful.
Later, I picked up a variety of sticky letters and put “Hey Beautiful” on every mirror in my home to remind me of God’s perspective and faithfulness. That’s how the small gift hand mirrors came to be. I gave them to friends for years, a small token.
It’s been thirteen years again. I age and outward beauty continues to fade. But when I pull out my hand mirror, I’m reminded once again and fill with gratitude for the blessing of years. So, friend, see yourself as God sees you. Hey Beautiful!
1 Corinthians 13:12
A special mirror in your memory? A story about one?