Adapted from “Ode to my socks” by Pablo Neruda

I see you there.

You lines in the corners of my eyes. You grew overnight from fine lines to deep crevices. You used to hide until I smiled. Now you’ve taken up permanent residency on my face. Every damn day.

You vertical crevices between my eyes. “What are you thinking about?” my husband used to say when they appeared. He no longer asks. Now you’re always there. Staring back at me. Every damn day.

You horizontal lines, rainbowing your way across my forehead. You once appeared dramatically from nowhere, my faithful assistant when raising my eyebrows to make a point with emphatic incredulity. Now my melodramatic flourish has lost its element of surprise, as you are with me always. Every damn day.

You dear parentheses, circling my face. I used to affectionately call you my “smile lines,” only poking through when I opened this mouth wide with glee. But after years of laughing or smiling or—let’s be honest—yelling at people, you’re always there. Every minute of every damn day.

I hear your advice.

Between recurring bouts of “Paw Patrol” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse,” I hear those Sirens in the television, singing their tantalizing promises.

“Fastest Retinol formula available,” they pledge.

“Clinically proven results,” they claim.

“Turn the clock back ten years in two weeks,” they lie.

So it also goes between the thousandth reading of “Go Dog Go” and “The Best Nest.” I see the ideal on the glossy pages of the popular magazines.

Where are those ladies’ fine lines and vertical crevices? Where are their horizontal lines and deep parentheses? Photoshopped away, along with their gray hairs, saggy boobs and extra chins. Age is only an affliction for those of us without money for a good plastic surgeon or a decent photo editor.

Since I have neither of those things, I do my best to welcome the lines and tune out the sirens. “Growing older is a blessing,” I tell myself. “It’s so much better than the alternative,” I reason. But most importantly, I see the very earliest beginnings of the same lines and crevices on the faces of my children. I see my face when I look into theirs, which makes if impossible to hate what my face has become.

So when I look into the mirror, I remind myself to see the woman my children see, not the woman the commercials and magazines tell me I should be.

I see you there, you reassuring face, filled with years of wisdom.

I see you there, you happy face, eager to laugh when your children are being silly.

I see you there, you perseverant face, fiercely defending your children like no one else can.

I see you there, you mother of two beautiful children, who—while likely the cause of that rapid aging—are also the most amazing little humans you have ever met. They cause gray hairs to sprout from nothingness and invite occasional wrinkles to take up permanent residency, but they do so with a seemingly endless supply of unimaginable joy. Every damn day.

Rachel is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. She is a recovering political writer and most recently taught high school English in Baltimore. She is thrilled to now be a full-time mama and writer,...

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