Kimberly and I met in an online writing community. It's been a delight to get to know her across the distance. As a woman who has worn a few masks in my day (and is learning to walk in my life barefaced) I appreciated this story of Kimberly and her daughter. Enjoy, friends.
They filled storefront windows down each canal and street. Most were cheap copies, a garish rainbow of colors with fake feathers dyed to match. The outdoor carts strung them along lengths of ribbon, and each time we passed the masks, my daughter snuck behind them and tried one on.
“What do you think of this one, Mommy?” She said. “Which one is the prettiest?” Glitter rubbed off and clung to her face. I tried to explain the masks were just a tourist trap, an ugly blight on the authentic face of this floating city.
She wanted to spend her pocket money, and I convinced her to wait until we visited a real shop—one where the proprietor had mastered the craft of mask-making. We wandered and discovered one just off the main tourist path, tucked away in a quiet corner of Venice.
She couldn’t afford anything in the place, but I wanted her to see the contrast, to touch and feel a mask of superior quality. I wanted her to run her fingers along the ribbons and the seams, to learn the difference between a knock-off and a work of great artistry and beauty.
She was seven, and she liked bubble gum pink and she liked glitter. The more, the better.
She walked around the shop and found a mirror. Holding the masks carefully up to her face, she posed this way and that. Her eyes stood out, the only part of her face that looked familiar. I can see her now, big brown eyes hiding behind papier maché and a painted face.
As she put on mask after mask, I imagined her ten years older. I thought of her as an almost-woman, and how the world will teach her to hide, to never show a true face. The world will tell her to master the art of the masquerade, and I fear this so much, I want to rip the masks from her hands and show her the beauty of an open, uncovered face.
Other people will try to become the mirror in which she sees herself. They will try to tell her who she is, and give her masks of every shape and color to try on. But I, I want to be her true mirror, the one she gazes into and in doing so, recognizes her authentic self. Where she sees herself as anything but false. Where masks hold no purpose, but to use as decoration on a wall.
She never bought one. Despite all the trying on, she decided to purchase a tiny ceramic mask painted in shades of blue. It fits perfectly in the palm of her hand, and now sits on a shelf in her bedroom next to photos of herself, smiling, barefaced, true.
Kimberly Coyle is a writer, mother, and gypsy at heart. She tells stories of everyday life while raising a family and her faith at her blog, kimberlyanncoyle.com. She writes from the suburbs of New Jersey, where she is learning how to put down roots that stretch further than the nearest airport. Connect with her on Twitter @KimberlyACoyle.
You can check out the other de(tales) (so far) here.
There’s still time to order my Easter art and meditation calendar. It’s a 50 print set of cards with words by me, and art by Alicia Heater of Slightly Stationary. It’s beautiful, and meant to draw you into a meaningful Easter season. I’d be honored to have you purchase it, for yourself or for a gift. International shipping is now available.