Smile by heart.
It was the first thing we always checked — the lighting in the bathroom. Whether hotel or apartment, this was the most important thing, my mother taught me. After all, she explained, a lady had to get her face on in the proper light. And she always did. I watched her do it. Even on her darkest days, she began each morning in the bathroom light. Transferring it to her face. Going to work with a heavy heart, and a well-lit smile. In my younger years, I imagined the corners of her mouth attached like pulleys, lifting her heart into that same light. Just typing it now, mine did the same.
When traveling to different art shows across the United States, I would call her when arriving, and the first thing she would ask was “How is the lighting?” I only just realized, maybe it had always been code for “how is your heart?”
Even in the last apartment she lived in, we checked it first. She used her walker to get into the light. It was perfect, she said. She had already decided. Maybe this is what I loved about her the most — this decision to find the light. To become it. Smile by heart.
She could get her face on in here, she said. She filled the adjacent cupboard with the finest make-up. Moisturizers. Creams. She put them on each morning. Her lip-lined corners once again pulling up her heart.
Missing her now, I’m asked to do the same. And I do. Morning by morning. Smile by smile. My heart gets lifted. Into the light.