Saturday, April 18, 2009

Making Faces

"If you keep making that face, it’ll stick that way"  The words came echoing back to me recently, down the corridors of my past. A phrase I've always kept in the file as one of the great all-time Lies My Mother Told Me.

Mothers Day makes me think about things like that... At the ripe old age of ten I was already a great face-maker. I could cross my eyes and make them dance in different directions. I could wiggle my ears and my nose. I have preternatural control over my eyebrows and my mouth is quite capable of gawping like a landed fish or stretching to Alfred E Newman proportions of toothiness.

Man, I can make some faces. I was the Mozart of facemaking! So when my mom told me that if I tried hard enough it would stick… well I was thrilled, frankly. How cool would that be? I’d be the coolest kid in school! Wrinkled nose, puffed cheeks, crossed eyes, one eyebrow raised, Joker smile… at ten, it doesn’t get any better than that!

Look in the mirror… Concentrate… Make the face!

Hold it!


Can’t…  Hold…  On…

It didn’t work, darn it. Heck, it was all I could do to make that face in the first place and no matter how many times I made it, it just wouldn’t stick. I could stand there vamping like an idiot in front of the mirror until I wore it out and nothing could make that awful visage permanent.

So I gave up. I retained a Lon Chaney-esque control of my facial tics for the rest of my life, but no matter how grotesque the contortions I put my face through, they never quite stuck.

No matter how hard I tried.

I was looking in the mirror the other day and mom's warning came echoing back. I’m approaching forty now and there are echoes in my face of that ten-year-old’s mugging in the mirror. More than bone structure and a manic glint in the eye too, there’s something else… lines. When I drop the eyebrows, when I stop smiling, the lines don’t fade anymore. They’re still there.

The echoes of all the faces I've made linger even as they pass. And MAN have I made some faces!! Good ones, bad ones, sad ones and happy ones, they’re all there in the lines etched across my skin. More happy than sad, I think... I hope. The echoes of thousands of days of laughing until I choked are incised into my cheeks. My eyes have crinkles in the corners now, shadows of all the laughing and crying and the furrows in my brow are uneven, testament to the number of single eyebrow lifts I’ve done through the decades.

I made the faces.

And it finally stuck that way.

Moms are patient and they are always right.  Eventually.

1 comment:

Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).