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Who is That in My Mirror? A Story of Reflections

Here is a story from Maria Pierleoni about the wonder of reflections and how what one sees in the mirror can depend on who (and what) is looking.


In recent times we moved from a small house to a large house. From 400 square feet in one round room, to 1800 square feet in nine multiple squares, with an echo in spots where rooms are empty. The cat wanders around day and night meowing quite loudly, trying to locate the humans which were so easy to find in the one-room house, now seemingly lost in the nine-room house with three floors. His solution to this dilemma? Only frequent two rooms. One up and one down, as either the bedroom or the kitchen is likely to have a human in it at any given time of day or night.

One morning on his rounds from downstairs to upstairs, after howling the whole way up the stairs to announce his arrival, he noticed a new addition from the basement unpackings had found its way into his territory. He approached it, slowly and slinkily, a bit uncertain, as now there was a reflection of another cat in his hallway. I wondered if he recognized himself as himself or another cat altogether.

Well, the mirror sat on the floor for weeks and he passed it every day on his rounds of meow, search and find. He no longer slinked as he approached it, rather he stopped for a moment in acknowledgment, took a bath or a good scratch in front of it, or simply noticed and kept going. Did he make friends with this cat reflection while passing it each day, perhaps saying to himself, “Oh yes, hello friend who lives upstairs in the hallway.”?

This cat notion caused me to ask myself, “What happens when a human sees their reflection in the mirror?” Last year, we visited our two-and-a-half-year-old grandson. We were completely warmed and welcomed into the land of two-year-old toys, books, games, wonders, antics—you name it, we did it, watched it, explained it—and all with great joy and fascination as to the development of a child in their way of figuring out the life they have been plunked into upon their arrival to earth.

One afternoon, after a delightful lunch which included flying cars across the restaurant table for the pure enjoyment of “How does it work?”, we walked through the town, window watching and wondering and putting answers to all the “What is that?” questions from shop window to shop window. Eventually we came to a children’s shop. It was soft, inviting, pastel in color, with some toys, some clothing, welcoming to adults and children alike. As we went in, it was agreed that I would be on grandson watch while mom shopped. So, we wound our way around the displays, too high for a two-year-old, and landed in a spot in the center of the store. There were low bins with soft stuffed animals and dolls, low shelves of clothing, and a full-length mirror leaning against the wall. It took him a moment to find the mirror and when he did, much like the cat, he stopped. But unlike the cat, he approached with great curiosity and produced a ginormous smile for the boy in the mirror.

Very quickly they became friends, and he raised both hands to his newfound friend with a greeting and a giggle, clapped to an unspoken melody and turned himself to the left and the right, as if checking to see if his friend was following. He ran towards me to share his discovery and delight, and just as quickly as his turn-around feet could go, he was right there again with his friend, back and forth from the bins of odds and ends to the mirror to show his friend all the finds in the store. This went on for quite some time. When I let him know it was time to go, he approached his friend swiftly, danced a sweet dance of friendship and sameness, waved goodbye to his dear self and we left the store.

Who was that in my grandson’s mirror? Did he know? Did he recognize himself? How special I felt to experience the witnessing of one human self to itself and the joy and glee of finding, meeting, sharing, loving, exchanging, as if for the first time.

The mirror in the hallway, first spotted by the cat, and destined for the bathroom wall

above the sink, was ready to be put into place where previously there had not been one for many months. As this was the only mirror in the house thus far at the time, there was a period after its hanging where I felt like the cat AND our grandson, seeing myself reflected for the first time. While the mirror now offers the practicality of washing, brushing, fixing and shaving, it also allows a reflection of self, and something magical seems to happen when looking into my own eyes, finding a recognition of myself and also a wonder, who or what lives in there?

For the cat, there is a recognition of same-same—I know what cat is, even if I’m not sure you and I are the same cat. For our grandson, there is a joyful recognition of friend, and the warmth of get-to-know companion, seen in the ever-glowing happy of his exchange with himself. For my own self, I wonder while I gaze into my eyes, how well do I know myself? And do I really know the depths of the life that lives in me?

Who knew that’s what I could find in my mirror?

What can you find in your mirror? How well do you know yourself? Do you really know the depths of the life that lives in you?

I believe parts of us know the answers to these questions, and inside the search-and-find mission for the human, is the choice to listen in a way that we can actually hear what they have to say.


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