I saw my reflection in a store window today, while walking with a friend through the city and pushing the empty stroller of her baby girl. I had to wait, as her daughter was walking very slowly, insisting on exploring every corner of every terrace we passed by, and inspecting every brick on the sidewalk as if it was a new invention of humanity. Throughout this test for patience, I looked at my reflection in the store window and somehow I thought of you. The way my dress fitted me, the way the whole stroller completed the image, it was as if I was seeing someone I used to know a long time ago – the younger version of yourself in a time in which I was too small to understand you. It was a flashback from a different dimension, when I expected everything like it was a given from you, as if you were put on this earth only to take care of me and as if you owed me your life, and not the other way around.
I remember feeling entitled to you in every way, while not having a glimpse of thought of what that really meant.
Of course, I was probably no more than 3-4 years old at the time, but I had a pretty good picture in my head about you, as you were the singular most important person in my life, and thus, through a biological instinct of fairness, I felt I must be the same to you.
I remember your elegance, that came out best during the evenings you spent playing the piano in our living room – probably while thinking of the opera concerts you gave up on to have me and a steady job.
I remember those evenings like it was yesterday, asking you to play my favorite song over and over again. I remember feeling that happiness seeing you home, cooking pancakes, spending time with me in front of the TV, watching my favorite cartoons, answering my every question, looking at every drawing I made, waiting patiently for me to fall asleep but not before saying good night and kissing my nose. I remember you used to take short breaks (from me), to enjoy a cigarette and a glass of wine by yourself, in the kitchen. I remember feeling complete those days, happy as cloud nine, and being so high I couldn’t even imagine anything else that you could have needed.
Today, as I looked at myself in the window, I saw you 30 years ago. Today, when I still have the freedom to choose the road you didn’t take – the one I was not on, I want you to know that I see you.
I see all the opportunities you refused. I see all the eligible good looking men that walked by passed you, not managing to raise their eyes above my forehead. I see the nights you could have spent wearing gorgeous evening gowns, with your hair done and perfect manicure, still turning heads in a five star lounge.
I taste the cocktails you didn’t order on all those Friday nights. I smell the roses from all the first dates you missed out on. I see the perfect figure of the body you lost. I travel the world country by country. I do not work because I have to pay bills, but because it makes me happy. I sleep in late during the weekends and I cook for myself whenever I feel like it. I run in the park and I dance until my feet get numb. I take long talks and lattes after work with friends. I go to bed whenever I feel like it, and I wake up rested. I watch endless TV series, enjoy a spotless apartment, good sound system and designer wardrobe. I drive a compact car and I go to concerts and music festivals. I rely my happiness on myself and I am free to choose its form in any given moment.
But despite all that, today, while looking at myself, I saw you – that version of you that existed before I did.
They say that in middle age, we oscillate between caring more for others and caring more for ourselves, and that the key to happiness is resolving this struggle.
I know you had this struggle also, as I am having it now. I know the world taught you to care more for others by having children – a quick solution that brings only chaos for those who are not meant to take a step into that direction.
I hope that if you were to look back and be honest with yourself, you would make the same choices, regardless of how I turned out to be. I hope that if someone were to show you the life you would have lived without me in it, you would not regret your choice to give me more.
You see, no one has it all. We all have dreams that don’t come true. We all have love stories that didn’t work out. And we are all still breathing, day after day. Time did not stop because we chose to let go, say no or walk a different path in life compared to others.
When you were my age, I was a toddler.
When you were my age, you were a mother, but today – seeing myself in the store window – I saw the woman in you, and I was amazed that despite the endless possibilities that laid before you, you chose me.
“Thank you” is not enough.