Sunday, 4 April 2010

Mandy's magic mirror

The drizzle had not let up for days. When you feel sad, you need some sympathy, even if it's only from the weather thought Mandy. Mandy's Gran had died two days before. Mandy just couldn't believe the rush to get her buried, clean out her house and tie up all the ends. It almost appeared that she had never existed.

"RELATIVES RAVAGE RESIDENCE". Mandy pictured the headline in an imaginary newspaper in her head. How callous all her Gran's children were. Her aunts and uncles on her Mum's side descended on the sadly empty unit even before the funeral and squabbled over the pickings. Uncle Ron with his beaky nose and a head as bald as a badger had brought tools with him to pull up the nearly new carpet in the lounge. As Mandy watched she pictured a wildlife documentary of vultures pulling at a carcass. She revised her headline, it now became:


So Mandy alone of all the relatives, cried in church. The others anxious for the service to be over, fretted in their pews. Mandy went to the cemetery and shed more tears as the coffin was lowered into the ground. A few friends and neighbours stood in the rain and the final words were said to a clutch of umbrellas and the bare headed Mandy. Rain and tears streaming down her face.

She returned to Gran's unit the next day to tidy up. It was as though a bomb had hit it. Every room had been ransacked and in the small back yard was a heap of debris. The relatives had come, had seen and had scavenged. Now they were gone.

Mandy had lost her parents when she was barely sixteen. A few years with her dad's brother's family made her quickly independent. She lived by herself but had always managed to visit her Gran once a week, had a meal with her and did a few chores like cleaning and shopping. Now even that was over. She now felt very much alone.

Her Uncle Bert had spoken to her after the funeral. "Clean up after we have gone", he said. "Then take a set of keys around to the real estate agent. He will arrange to put the unit on the market. A second hand dealer will give you a ring during the week to pick up what is left."

Despite her indifference to her mother's family Mandy did tidy the place up. Gone were the cosy flowery brocade chairs she and Gran sat in by the fire and where they ate their meal off trays on their laps. Gone were the little ornaments, the china shepherd and shepherdess, the ebony elephants and the Royal Doulton tea set in pride of place in a walnut china cabinet. Gone were the old pictures from the wall; the Stag at bay, the Laughing Cavalier, and Bubbles, the little curly headed boy with a soap blowpipe. All gone, all those memories wrenched from her heart. The pain was terrible. Mandy sat down on the floor, wept a little and blew her nose noisily into a tissue. She had checked every room. The few sticks of furniture left would fetch nothing. She hoped the dealer would charge Uncle Bert to take it away. Again she wrote a headline:


Mandy laughed at that one herself.

In the back yard there was an untidy heap of bits and pieces. Some would go in Gran's little bin but the rest she would have to take back to put in her own wheelie bin. There were plastic bags of rubbish, a broken wooden chair, bits of carpet and matting and a picture frame.

"What picture did they throw out?" Mandy murmured to herself. She turned it over. It wasn't a picture at all. it was the old mirror that Gran had on the wall in her Bedroom. The gilt frame was coming apart and the silvering of the mirror was worn away in one corner. To Mandy it was a precious find.

"You are coming home with me," she said.

She packed as much as she could in the dustbin and jammed the rest into the little boot of her Mazda 121 and then placed the damaged mirror on the front passenger seat with a seat belt holding it. Later with a little patience and skill Mandy glued and tacked the frame back together, bought some gold paint and repainted the frame, refixed the wire to the back, polished the glass and hung it her own bedroom, with a scarf draped over the faulty silvering.

The mirror had so many memories for her. Her Gran had owned it for ages. She remembered her own mother brushing her hair as she stood before it when she was eight years old. Her Gran had given her a pink ribbon that day and they had gone into the bedroom to tidy her hair before placing it on her head. Then she had run out to show her Gran and then had turned to look back in the bedroom. Her Dad was brushing her Mother's hair as she sat in a chair in front of the mirror. It was not his brushing that touched her, it was the way they held hands as he did so.

There were the times that after her parents had died she used to talk to her Gran, tell her about college, clothes, boys, and her hopes and fears. Her Gran would listen and nod, and hug her when she was down and laugh with her when she was happy. She recalled the smell of her Gran's place. It was a clean, tea-potty, chocolate biscuity smell.

She remembered too, only a few weeks previously when she herself brushed her Gran's hair. It was no longer the full flowing dark brown hair it had been. Thinner now, mostly grey, her Gran closed her eyes and appeared to doze in the chair as she gently brushed it for her. The expression on her face was peaceful, half smiling, contented, beautiful. As Mandy looked at their faces in the mirror she felt that indescribable feeling of warmth and satisfaction as the link between her, her mother and her Gran was shown in the reflections.

Now the mirror was hers. Each morning when Mandy awoke, the mirror was bright and reflected the light from the window. As she looked in she could see herself, soft and drowsy, waking from sleep. The curves of her body and the sunlight in her hair, made her glad to be alive. In the evening, the fading light gave her reflection a more mysterious glow, the interesting shadows cast a feeling of exotic allure to her face, her hands seemed to wend and wave in seductive ways and she saw, that despite her earlier teenage fears, she really was quite attractive. When she looked at herself she was proud and confident, wrapped in a warm blanket of love.

She found she talked to the mirror, and in her mind, her Gran would tell her what to do. She would reassure her, guide and comfort her and was her true mentor. Now, when she looked back to the day of the funeral, the hideous family and their greedy claims for the remnants of her Gran's past, she felt content. She knew the most precious possession she had received that day from the scrap heap was the memory of love and affection that was kept alive by the magic of the mirror.


"That's the best headline yet", said Mandy.


  1. Absolutely superb! Heart reaching and touching.

  2. This is such a nice little story. It really is the memories and not the extraneous stuff, that make a person's life worthwhile.

  3. The saddest thing about death and funerals is the fighting over the inheritance. At least Mandy showed her respect.
    Great post!

  4. Brilliant work .I felt sad after reading it.
    Its really a touching one and I can relate some incidents to it.

    Good work.Will surely come back

  5. This was beautifully handled. It can be such a minefield of emotion.

  6. Nice post - we could all use one of those mirrors..Jae

  7. Goodness me, this was such an emotional piece- had to grab a tissue!Carry On Tuesday has a new address, there's a link to it at the top of my blog. Hope to see you there!

  8. I just loved this story!! The interspersed imaginary headlines that punctuated each revelation, truly a joy to read!

  9. This really hit home. It reminded me of my own grandma and her china and ornaments and the way her house looked and smelled... and I related to the rest of it too. Wonderful writing. I've been sitting here for the last 5 minutes in a reverie, remembering that house from so long ago. Thank you.