Wearing a Pretty Face

TODAY when I was resting, silently chanting sonnets in the process of creation to keep my mind from the almost unbearable arthritic pain in my legs and feet, the doorbell rang.I erased the frown of annoyance that came to my face, and, by the time I reached the door and had opened it, I had managed a smile.

There stood my baby daughter--a senior in high school--tall and beautiful, who explained with a happy laugh, "I just wanted to hear the doorbell, Mom. I felt elegant as I rang it."

My laughter, in a minor strain, mingled with hers, for we are proud to have such a luxury after so many years of having callers knocking on our door.

Then, by some mystic alchemy, the wheels of time spun backward to a summer afternoon fourteen years ago, when I was summoned from my resting by a gentle knocking. Almost too ill to do so, I arose and slowly made my way to the door, reshaping my face into a smile of welcome on the way.

There stood my baby, a blue-eyed, yellow-curled little darling of four, laughing up at me. My smile had vanished and I greeted her with, "Why did you make mama get up and come to the door, my dear? Don't you know that is being unkind?"

I shall never forget seeing the radiant brightness fade from her sensitive little face, the laughter from her lips and eyes. A picture of contrite babyhood, the quick tears brimming over, she said, "But Mummy, I wanted to see you wearing your pretty face!"

The impact of those baby words, with their implication, had come as a shock to rouse me from all semblance of self-pity. Holding her close, I then realized that no matter how ill or fatigued I was, I must let this last little child of mine see a joyous, smiling mother as the others had done; that all of my dear ones needed my smiles more than did the occasional caller.

"A penny for your thoughts, Mom!" I was returned to the present by my daughter's voice, the same which had rebuked me, but with lilting overtones the years had added.

I looked into the unshadowed depths of her eyes, still the same clear-blue, and with quiet, reminiscent laughter easing my pain, I spoke more to myself than to her. "Dear little girl, I have found that 'wearing a pretty face' makes a lighter heart within me." And it still does.