You have your mother’s eyes.
From my paternal grandmother’s lips to my mind. A racist insult, I thought. When you grow up with taunts of “slant” or “almond eyes,” every comment becomes coded—no matter who the speaker is. So it was in that moment, not long after my undergraduate commencement. When my paternal grandmother, nodding at the graduation photo we’d sent her, said,
You have your Aunt Dottie’s hair, and you look like her—except for your eyes. You have your mother’s eyes.
Mirrors reflect implicit and explicit layers. Mouths are mirrors. We spout our inner reflections and biases and insecurities and fears. But we also spout our hopes and observations and what we believe to be truths.
With the force of a water-shy horse, I avoid deep mirror interactions. I’m quick to read prejudice and quicker to reinstate ramparts. But I’m also a ruminator. I know I am faulty, flawed, finicky.
I hold pieces of my past within me. They illuminate me, extending through to my surfaces. I am me, but I am one in a line of many. Descendant, descending, great to grand to daughter. I share much with my antecedents. Through mind, body, and heart, I echo. My maternal great-grandmother’s stubborn spirit. Both grandmothers’ introversion. My maternal grandmother’s nose. My mother’s smile and eyes—but most of all, her self-made strength. Her intrinsic knowledge that she deserved to dream and achieve beyond the judgments of others. Her faith in the validation of her self.
I am pieces of these women, of maternal and paternal, of Asian and Caucasian. But my mind is more a mosaic than my body. Like my mother, my grandmothers, and my grandmothers’ mothers, I strive to define myself through my self. Through my mother’s eyes, I fight. I fight for the old me, the current me, the new me, and the many iterations in between.
Through my mother’s eyes, I seek self-acceptance over fear and loathing. I tilt my face up and peer through these mixed slats. These are not wide eyes, nor narrow eyes, nor doll eyes. Does their shape truly matter? I see these windows for what they are: bright eyes. —Joy Stoffers, Festival Blogger