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Elise Sax Headshot

Becoming My Mother: A Startling Transformation

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My vacation to Hawaii was great, but who is this woman in all the photos?

It can't be me. I'm much younger (and much thinner) than the woman posing in capris and a tank top, so there's no way it can be me. Hell, her face doesn't even look like mine. In fact, it's not my face at all.

It's my mother's face.

When did this happen? The last I looked, I was pretty much my own self with my own eyes and nose. But now, my mom has taken over, and my cheeks, my chin, my whole profile is hers.

My mother has been sneakily taking over for years. It started with a mannerism or two, that thing I do with my hands, the way I move my mouth. And then she started speaking for me. Her voice bellowed from my mouth when I disciplined my children. Her favorite sayings erupted from my throat at every moment.

But now, it seems, she has taken over my whole face.

My mom had her own face until her own mother took over, but that was later in life, way in her 60s. That's when her mother died. I recall a phone call from my mother, her voice filled with panic:

"Elise, I have turned into Grandma. I caught my reflection in the mirror, and I have her face."

She waited for me to deny it, to tell her she still looked the same, but she had been transforming for years, and now she really did look like my grandmother. She accepted her new reality with a grim resignation and went to Macy's to buy new wrinkle cream.

Is this the signal that we have crossed over to aging, that we have left the last vestiges of our youth behind and have moved on to the next generation? To our mothers' generation? Have we transitioned to another stage in our life with our only hint being our mother's reflection staring back at us as we brush our teeth in the morning?

Looking at my vacation photos, I think: "Hi, Mom. I miss you." And I do miss her. She left nearly a year ago, and these photos bring her back so clearly. Her facial expressions, the way she stands, it's all there recorded on my iPhone with the South Pacific in the background.

And, really, is it so bad to evolve? From baby to adolescent to woman to our mothers, these are the transitions to cherish. It's time to embrace who we are as the feminine power, the marks of our brave ancestors on our faces. These are the signs of experience of all that is womanly, and we need to own them and celebrate them.

But I'm off to Macy's for new wrinkle cream because my mother didn't look a damned thing like Angelina Jolie.