The Golden Mirror



Life can be full of poetry

the installation of a mirror as a reflection on joy and love


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Eva and I had lunch at the small A&B Restaurant on Witherspoon Street in Princeton. Her blond hair looked like a beautiful frame around her face. Her bright eyes reflected the light that came in through the windows. What was she thinking? What did she remember of all the years of our life together? Someone at a table nearby was speaking French, and suddenly, I thought of the French mirror with its wonderful golden frame that we had in our apartment in Cannes.

It must have been more than twenty-five years ago. We were driving through Provence on the way to our newly acquired apartment in Cannes. We stopped for lunch on the central square of the then still, quiet, old town of Maussane. All one heard was the clicking of a game of boule, as always played in those places by some local men. A large, old fountain stood there, decorated with funny-looking swans. This was before the town allowed cars to park on the square, which now suffocate everything.

After lunch, we strolled along Main Street—or was it called Rue Napoleon, named for the one who was said to have passed through this town on his victorious return from Italy? We stopped at the Antiquaire, and there it was that we discovered that grandiose mirror. It must have been more than eight feet tall. The frame was sumptuous, all gilded in gold leaf. The mirror was surmounted by a wave-like décor, which held a crest showing some convoluted initials. I promptly interpreted the initials as Eva’s, “ES”—or did they relate to Eugénie, the most beautiful (and quite daring) daughter of a local nobleman remembered in Romantic poetry? I bought the mirror for our new apartment, and for all the years I was to see Eva reflected in it as my Eugénie.

When we hung the mirror on the wall of the Grand Salon of our apartment, Eva lifted up one of our young sons that he could see the mirror a little better. He stretched out his arms in joy. Years of light and happiness began for us in Cannes.

In the mornings, when we woke up, we could see the bright blue morning sky reflected in the mirror. Lifting our heads a little higher, we could see the tall old pine tree outside in the light of the sun, and behind it, the golden beach, the blue expanse of the Mediterranean dotted with white sails, and, in the distance, the Lerins Islands.

Later in the day, we often sat in our garden, surrounded by agapanthus bushes, blooming oleanders, and the palm trees we had planted. Whenever we looked back into the coolness of the apartment, behind its thick stone walls, we could see the mirror. Reflected in it, we could observe whether any of our small children were resting on the bed—for once, in angelic tranquility—or whether they were up to something that we should know about.

Occasionally, I would be the one to rest on the bed. In my dreams, I could sometimes see all the characters of my stories descend from the mirror as if in a procession through a tall golden gate—even the little animals of our garden were somewhere on the side, and a small colorful ball rolled along in front, driven by the wind. What a reflection of our journey through life.

How happy I was when Eva woke me up by looking in from the garden with a smile, calling me to come for a swim!

On cool evenings, we often sat on an uncomfortable, but antique, sofa under the mirror, or on equally uncomfortable antique chairs around the table where we played a French card game called Tarot. It was a running joke with us whether the mirror would let us look into the cards of our opponent.

Time passed. Our children grew up, went to college, and got jobs. There was no time left for long vacations in Cannes—on the beach, in the garden, and in the apartment.

Finally, we sold the apartment, and so the day arrived for us to move away. One of our sons came to help us move the heavy furniture. We had intended to leave the mirror behind, possibly selling it in Cannes. But our son protested, saying that he remembered how happy we had been when we had just obtained that mirror. He thought we should take it with us. He would want it later, he urged, once he had a better job and a suitable apartment of his own.

I rented a small delivery van, one just big enough to hold the furniture we wanted to take along, including the mirror, but a bit too big for comfortable driving. I admonished Eva, in case she might be driving for a while, to be very careful, “not to cut corners with this kind of vehicle.” Those big vehicles could take along anything she got too close to. In the end, we decided that I would drive—650 miles in one stretch, all the way to our new apartment in Munich. I was dead tired when we arrived late at night.

I spotted the perfect place to park, which happened to be in front of a new-looking Mercedes. I turned in. We heard a crunching noise! I had turned too sharply around the Mercedes and scratched off one of the car’s headlights. Eva looked at me for a moment, then said, “You must be very careful not to cut corners with this kind of vehicle.”

Our new apartment in Munich turned out to be too small for the big mirror. Its grandiose French frame looked lost among the Nordic, utilitarian Ikea furniture. So we stored it in the basement section allocated to our apartment, tightly wrapped in an old blanket of faded turquoise color and further protected by an old, blue foam rubber camping mattress. What a descent for the noble mirror—no more sun and light and happiness to perceive and reflect for many years to come! Occasionally, when I had to get something from the basement, I could just make out the golden top of the mirror décor with the crest reaching up from its ugly restraint, as if pleading with me for a new life in the sun.

One day, we visited one of our sons, who then lived in San Francisco. He had purchased a beautiful condo apartment in the Marina district, only a block from the Bay. There was access to the flat roof of the building. From there, we had an enormous, sweeping view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the blue expanse of the Bay dotted with white sails, and, in the distance, some islands.

“It looks a little like the Mediterranean” I said.

“Do you still have the old mirror?” he asked.

A few months later, we found a convenient way to ship the mirror from Munich to San Francisco. On our next trip to see our son, I helped him hang it on the large wall behind his dining room table. Even our son’s girlfriend agreed that it looked very beautiful there. As the French would say, “Ça fait Grand Salon.”

And when you look from a certain angle, you can see the blue sky and the golden sunlight of California reflected through the living room window. Dreams of Cannes?

We really had to mount the mirror solidly to the wall—on account of possible earthquakes there. When all was done, late in the evening, Eva held up our young granddaughter from another son so she could see the mirror a little better. She smiled and stretched her arms out in joy. Then we played a game of Tarot, sitting together at the dining room table on rather uncomfortable kitchen chairs. Our son said that he could see my cards reflected in the mirror—again.

Before we retired for the evening, I looked once more into the mirror and saw Eva reflected in it as she stood next to me. Her blond hair looked like a golden frame around her face. Her bright eyes reflected the light. Her smile had a bit of Eugénie.

Did she think of all the happy years of our common journey through life?


Hello, Eva! I still love you!