In what I consider a minor miracle — and a testament to my wife’s tolerance of my “decorating” tastes — the mask in the picture hangs in our bedroom. Carved from wood and embellished with cow hair and teeth, it’s nothing short of hideous. I love it! It sparks my imagination.
The year before I was born, Pyrenees stilt dancers presented the mask to my father during a dance festival in England. As a child, I was so drawn to the “ugly man” that my father gave it to me. It’s occupied a prominent spot on a bedroom wall ever since. I’d hoped to one day pass it on to my daughter — a nice counterbalance to pink, purple and princesses.
Unfortunately, Mia’s reaction to my suggestion that she wave to the “ugly man” was to duck under the covers. When I lifted her to pat his nose so that she’d realize there was nothing to fear, she shook with the full-body shivers normally reserved for bugs. Mia HATES bugs! Defeated, I returned her to the safety of her mother’s arms.
But I’m stubborn. Morning after morning, I’d pat the ugly man’s nose and offer to let her do the same. Morning after morning, she’d refuse. Until one morning she didn’t. I was so proud the first time, watching her confront and overcome her fears with tentative strokes of the wooden nose. I cheered for her, and she clapped as well. Now, patting the “ugly man” has joined scooping coffee as part of her morning routine, something she calls for upon waking.
Wouldn’t it be great if we’d all confront the fears that hold us back in the same way?