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I See the Ghost of My Mother When I Catch a Glimpse of Myself in the Mirror

Thursday, May 05, 2022

By Rachel Levy Lesser

When I was growing up, everyone told me that I looked like my mom. People often called me Becky — her name, not mine. I got so used to it that I didn’t correct them though I really didn’t see the resemblance. She had light-brown hair with a bounce at the bottom, light-blue eyes, and freckles. I had similar features, but my mom looked like a grown woman — I looked like a kid.

I thought my mom was much prettier and I still do. Her eyes were bigger and brighter, her skin tanner, her face thinner, and her smile more sparkly and infectious. She had a bigger chest and much better legs. She looked like Becky. I looked like Rachel.

My mom got sick when she was fifty-one and died when she was fifty-seven.

Throughout her illness, her big, blue eyes still sparkled behind her small tortoiseshell glasses, and her light brown thinning hair still looked bouncy even when she wore baseball hats to hide the fact that it was falling out in chunks. Her smile never faded, and she still had those great legs.

At 48, I now finally see the resemblance people have told me about for as long as I can remember. Aging is funny that way. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the rearview mirror of my car or a snapshot on a phone, I see my mother. It’s actually a little disarming.

At some point, my face thinned out and my freckles settled in patches on my cheeks identical to my mother’s. Now, my face shows off the bump in my nose that is unmistakably hers. I have my mother’s laugh lines around my mouth, although mine are not as deep-set as hers. She smiled — a lot. The lines on my forehead run deeper than hers ever did. I think I worry too much.

My mother at just about the age I am now; I see this face every morning in the mirror

Me, now, and the resemblance is undeniable

My hair is cut at just about the length I remember hers always was, and our highlighted color is the same. My expressions and my mannerisms are hers. I look down at my hands and see hers, especially because I often wear her everyday rings and bracelets, and sometimes even her watch.

Shortly after my mom died, a friend of hers told me that I would never see my mother age. I didn’t know how to respond to that then but I never forgot it. Every now and then when I see my friends’ parents, I take note of how they have aged. I imagine how my mother would have done the same.

A couple of years ago while waiting in line at my local Starbucks, I saw what I believed to be an older version of my mother standing in front of me waiting for her latte. This woman looked to be in her mid-70s. She was petite and wore small tortoiseshell glasses around her light eyes. Her hair was cut in a bob, and it was gray — a natural silvery hue. I think my mother would have let her hair go gray. Her sister did, and my mother often followed suit.

This woman even wore a headband (my mother’s signature accessory) and had on a brightly colored toggled coat that looked like it could have hung in my mother’s closet. I felt like I had seen a vision, a ghost of sorts. When she looked back at me in line (perhaps sensing my stare), I looked away, a bit embarrassed by what I was thinking.

Now when people tell me that I look like my mom, I nod my head in agreement and tell them that I see it too. I see it each and every morning when I look at myself in the bathroom mirror. I miss her, and in so many ways I feel like I am her. I smile at her, this person in the mirror. She smiles back at me.


Rachel Levy Lesser is the author of Life’s Accessories, A Memoir (And Fashion Guide). Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post, Glamour, Parenting, Modern Loss, Kveller, and more. When not writing, Rachel can be found baking, as she hosts a show on A Mighty Blaze where she interviews cookbook authors and bakes along with them in her home kitchen. (She still lets her teenage kids lick the bowl.) Rachel is also forever practicing yoga, knitting scarves and wearing them, indoors.