A Moment I Have Waited For

October 11th, 2018

I had a moment with my daughter the other night. It was her bedtime, and our faces were very close. She looked at me earnestly and asked, “What are those lines?”

I had waited a long time for this day.

One of my earliest memories of my dad was lying in bed as he tucked me in — something I rarely remember him doing. My parents split up early on, and my dad was a bit of a partier, not really one for the childhood routines. I remember asking him, “What are those lines on your forehead?” Although I was probably not much older than my children are now, I distinctly remember his reaction and the hurt expression on his face.

To be fair, my dad was in his twenties, and perhaps self-conscious about the deep furrows on his forehead — furrows which I have clearly inherited. He is not a vain person, but who wants to have their wrinkles blatantly pointed out? The fact that I remember this conversation — and I remember so little — means that there was an emotional tenor to the exchange, and I felt bad about having asked the question.

My forehead wrinkles are deep and unflattering. Luckily I also inherited my dad’s enormous five-head, so I’ve had a built-in excuse to have bangs my entire life. When the bangs are swept aside, my daughter, up close, can see those wrinkles loud and clear. When she said “What are those lines?” my heart melted. I was having the same conversation with my daughter that, as a little girl, I had had with my father. I felt thrilled.

I know I have deep furrows on my forehead. I’m 47 years old; it’s been a long life. Perhaps because I’m around 25 years older than my dad was when he had same-age kids, my reaction was different. Rather than feeling self-conscious, I felt elated. Okay humbled, but grateful to have a daughter to ask me about the wrinkles on my face.

So how did I answer the question?

I said to her, “Those are my laugh lines. I have them because I have smiled so much in my life.”

This was a lie. Laugh lines are usually around the mouth and eyes and result in cute crinkly crow’s feet, not deep forehead rivets. Forehead wrinkles, well, they are probably more related to anger and worry. But I figure my daughter would not know any better.

I smiled, as if to mimic the wrinkle-producing effect, and tried to wrinkle up my forehead as I did so. (Yes, I was deep into this lie now.) She scrutinized my face as it contorted. She thought for a moment, and then asked, “What does it look like when you’re angry?”

You got me, kid. My forehead furrows might not have come from a lifetime of lighthearted laughter. They may have more to do with my tendency toward moodiness and grouchiness. But still, they’re part of my face — the face I hope Phoebe will always remember.

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