A Reason to Smile

My daughters and I are definitely not camera-shy. We love taking pictures with each other and with everyone else.

A few years back, the three of us went on a trip. As usual, we posed for a selfie.

My eldest reminded me, “Mom, remember… Smile …”

I don’t usually need reminders or tips about posing, so I was surpised by her comment. I shrugged it off and tried my very best not to disappoint.

“Cheese!” Click!

Afterwards, my kids checked out our picture and collectively groaned. “Forget it,” they said in resignation. “Mom has forgotten how to smile.”

What? I was perplexed by this comment. What did they mean about me having forgotten how to smile? I studied the offending picture.

There I was posing with my two smiling girls. At first glance everything seemed picture perfect. Then I looked more closely at myself in the picture. The corners of my mouth were raised in a ghost of a smile, then I saw what my kids had seen : the smile did not reach all the way to my eyes. My eyes were sad and empty.

I was taken aback. I did not recognize that lost soul I saw staring back at me.

You see, when my late husband passed away a few years back, I put on a brave front. I’ve never given in to hysterics or self-pity. All my feelings I sorted out by having heart-to-heart talks with my kids or doing some nocturnal soul-searching. The rest I poured out into my writings. I had convinced myself that I was perfectly fine, but my eyes gave away the emptiness I felt inside.

I’ve always considered myself a solitary creature, with my home as my fortress of solitude and my room as my inner sanctum. Despite having been married at a very young age, I have always striven to be independent and scoffed at the notion of women needing a man to make them whole. I am woman, hear me roar, I always like to tell myself. So when my husband passed away, I resigned myself to a life of solitary confinement, but I did not particularly feel deprived because I had the love and company of my kids to sustain me. And that was more than enough. Or so I told myself. Until my kids pointed out something which even I did not see.

Now it’s been awhile since that incident. Father Time proved to be a healer of wounds and Lady Luck blessed me with a guy who was just as loving and affectionate as my late husband. I had all but forgotten about that half-hearted smile, until someone made a comment recently. They said that they could tell I was happy because of my smile. When I heard that, I remembered that picture with my kids, and the effort it took to muster a smile. Then I looked at my recent pictures, and I saw that this time, there was no need to fake anything anymore. My smile was now big enough and strong enough to lift the corners of my mouth, crinkle my eyes , warm my heart and brighten my face for all the world to see. And yes, folks, no mistaking it. This time around, this smile is for real.

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