Vile and Wretched: The Mirror

    We found it at the dump, of all places. We drove up to the bin with 1500 square feet of carpeting ripped up from our condo’s floors, full of the previous owners’ smoke, dog dander and general filth. And there it was, gleaming in the mid-January sunlight.  I hopped out of the truck, eager to inspect.

“Y’all should take that,” a  reddened  middle-aged woman said as she pitched her junk in the nearly overflowing bin. “The mirror alone is worth a lot.” Husband and I loaded it up after ditching the carpet and headed home, laughing about our ‘heirloom mirror.’ I had such plans for that mirror! It’s a huge antique behemoth, its wooden frame busy with scrollwork and rosebuds.  I wanted to hang it in the dining room with my other massive antique mirror and possibly get a third for a different wall.

Fast forward six months when I’ve lost my job and have nothing but time and a lack of things to fill it with.  Close inspection revealed that many of the original curlicues had been snapped off, the frame was fragile and the whole thing needed a coat of paint. I went to work. I carefully sawed off the sharp edges with a Japanese saw, sanded and cleaned the frame, prepped it for painting and filled in the gaps with sturdy wood filler.

When we brought it in to hang it up, I was so excited! I’d worked so hard on it and the antique bronze paint I’d chosen looked wonderful. Husband had placed the hanger on the wall, and we hung it up, him walking away to close the patio door and I holding the frame to straighten it.

For a split second, it was perfect, the mirror luminous and bright, the frame evoking some old world I’ve never been to.

Then sinister gravity took over, simultaneously snatching the whole thing off the wall and smashing my finger in the process. Double agony. My finger throbbed and as I inspected the damage, I saw that the entire left hand side of the frame had come loose and the corner had been splintered.

I cursed a blue streak, yelled at Husband and stomped around the house for a while. It’s his fault, I thought, for leaving it out in the rain, for not putting more D-rings on the back like I had suggested. Husband yelled back at me, stomped around himself, and we both retreated to our separate corners. I wondered if this was going to be some test of our marriage. Could we manage through this mirror? Was the mirror going to be some metaphor for our lives? And my finger kept throbbing for another day. Eventually, I apologized, realizing I wasn’t mad at him, but at the whole situation. Remember, I’m out of work and when you’re out of work, you have a lot of time to highlight all the things wrong with your life that, under fully employed circumstances, you’d never have time to do.

It was about a week before I was ready to try again. Another long afternoon of work, patching, gluing. I’d even figured out how to make little rosettes that perfectly matched those on the other corners.  A coat of paint,  a new D-ring on the back to hold the wire, and I felt ready to try again.

Husband helped, and persevered through my repeated questions – “Is that hanger going to be enough? Is that in the right spot?” What I really wanted to know was…is this thing going to fall down again?

I’ll just skip everything from the patio to the dining room when it fell. Again. And worse this time. Frail wooden chunks shot off in all directions. Wooden confetti fell on the carpet. All my hard work, my careful patching and fixing and painting. And we didn’t yell and stomp this time. I didn’t get mad, I just shook my head and repeated, “I’m so angry, I worked so hard.”

“God is trying to tell me something,” I announced. The wire itself had actually broken, snapped under the weight of the frame and glass. This time, more pieces had broken off and the frame had gouged deep wounds in the wall. I had already decided that if it fell a second time, I wouldn’t keep trying. There are only so many times you can try to fix what’s really really broken.
We speculated and pondered. “This mirror does not want to hang here. Could we prop it up, on the piano? On a shelf?” No. The frame was too damaged, too weak.

In the end, we took it back outside and pulled the frame from the mirror. The plan is to create a new frame for the mirror which, miraculously, has survived being dumped at the dump and falling four feet twice onto the floor, plus God only know what other abuses. The frame is leaned up against the ivy coating of the patio wall like an aging showgirl. Beautiful, fragile. She’s cracked in too many places to count or to fix.

So we’ve made it through the mirror, Husband and I. We didn’t kill each other over the mirror and we’re going to end up with a really nice piece to hang on the wall when Husband creates a frame for it. He’s getting very good at woodworking and I’m excited to see what he’ll come up with.

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