It’s my boy, sitting shotgun messing with the camera on my phone. He takes a picture of his big teeth with even bigger braces and waves it for me to see. We both laugh. Then he says, “smile!” And I cheese with both eyes still on the red light, my profile catching the lens.
I cannot stop myself, as I reach to see the picture, reach for affirmation in the least helpful place.
It is indeed me with a black rain jacket zipped past my throat, both hands clenching the wheel as if I’m laying on the pedal at 80 mph and not completely parked at a traffic light. Only it can’t be me. This person has eight chins.
My son is sympathetic. He looks at me. Looks at the screen. Then says,”I think it was because I was moving the camera.”
But already my hands are on my face, studying the lines with my fingertips, feeling the looseness of the skin on my cheeks, skin that folds up like a child’s paper fan when I smile.
The rearview mirror confirms the camera. And in disbelief I say again, “There’s so many chins…”
It is his attempt to help, and so my son says again, “Smile, mom!” And I grin just as I had.
But he cannot help this time. “Yeah,” he says, “you’re right. They’re still there.”
The light is green. And though I drive past cars with a rainy windshield, it is my mother’s face I see, creased and lined, and before hers, my grandmother’s, deeply etched. “I love you,” I tell my son. I grin wider and huger with my falling face. And my boy leans in, “I love you, too.” he says.
Because that’s what faces do. They fall. And they love.