My birthday is coming, so my driver’s license needs to be renewed. I can’t recall this being any big deal. You go to the Motor Vehicle Department, take a number, and wait.
But not this year.
I’m thinking about that postage stamp-sized photograph they take of you. I’m not crazy about the way I look in pictures these days. “Bitchy Resting Face” creeps in often when I’m not totally prepared for the camera click.
So I’m going to do all I can to make it a pretty one. A good night’s sleep, expensive highlights, and top-shelf makeup — three things I subscribe to religiously — will help in my campaign.
There’s no good reason to care about the tiny photo on my driver’s license, of course. The only person who’ll ever see it will be a state trooper who’s already annoyed that I’ve been speeding. It’s rather unlikely that I’ll hear, “Wow! That’s a great picture of you.”
I don’t care. I jazz myself up as if I have tickets to the best show in town, followed by a dinner date of epic proportions. And then I get in line with about 100 other people who clearly have not primped the way I have.
While I wait, I think about an old friend I used to visit after she moved into assisted living. And by old, I mean 92. Every Tuesday, she’d be on the sofa in her little sitting room, with The Price is Right blaring. She was always put together — mascara, lipstick, and blush in just the right shades.
Her hair — a stunning, pure white — was both her pride and joy and the bane of her existence. Her most used line back then: “Don’t you think my hair is too bumpy on this side?”
If I took a picture of her, she had to have first refusal.
Once in a while, she’d ask me to file her nails, something she could no longer do herself. Her hands were veiny and mottled and so thin I was afraid of holding them too hard.
She’d say, “I used to have such beautiful hands.”
I would answer, “You still do.” And I was right. Yes, they were old, but they were the hands that had held her babies. Did her housework. Typed in the secretarial pool. Punctuated her stories in the air with gusto. They were the story of her lifetime.
At the Motor Vehicle Department, I passed the eye test with an enthusiastic, “Awesome!” from the clerk. Then she said, “Smile,” and I waited to see the photographic magic that my extra effort had made.
At first I was disappointed. I thought my eyes could have looked brighter, my hair shinier.
Then I took a breath and looked again. Kinder, this time. What I’ve lost in rosy glow I make up for with a more knowing smile. My lips are thinner; my heart is smarter. The story of my lifetime. Beautiful.