Sometimes it can be the simplest thing, like putting on a certain lipstick — the case and the smell will remind me of my mom as she sat looking at me quizzically while I carefully applied lipstick to her 83-year-old lips.
“How can you leave the house without lipstick?” she would say to me decades before. I can hear her voice catching me as I headed racing for the door. Unlike other mothers who were scolding their daughters for wearing too much make-up, mine was chastising me for not wearing enough. Starting in 9th grade she didn't let up.
“Your face looks half-done,” she’d say. So I quickly stopped at the mirror by the front door and slapped on some lipstick, hoping to appease her. “Now, you need mascara.” I sighed. I’d never be my beautiful-along-the-lines-of-Elizabeth-Taylor gorgeous sister. An absolute whiz at hair and make-up, she didn't need any enhancement. I on the other hand did.
|Mine, not my Mom's|
She was a real fashion plate, my mother, and a seamstress to boot. She’d made two of my three prom dresses — both from the same pattern, but different fabrics, colors, and trim.
“Ma-a-a-om” I’d protest as she pinned more of a plunge in the neckline.
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” she advised. “Why not show a little more cleavage?” she said, and I watched her cut the V-neck even deeper.
Lipstick was about the only make-up I’d use in any regular way, most bought for a few bucks or less; always trying to find the perfect shade of cherry red. Though so many looked “perfect” in the tube, somehow all morphed on my lips into shades too orange for my skin. Once my friend Lynnie insisted we go into Bloomingdale’s to find the “right” shade. With the help of a Chanel salesgirl we did find a berry color that seemed good for me.
“I’ll take it,” I smiled and headed for the register…only to be dumbstruck when she said, “That will be $23.60.” TWENTY-THREE DOLLARS for a lipstick ?!? I must have looked so shocked that Lynn quickly intervened and insisted she buy it as “an early birthday present.”
When my mother came to live with us, changed by dementia, and not really herself, I did make every effort to carefully make her up before she left for Charles House, her senior daycare destination three days a week.
“Go like this Mom,” I’d remind her as I pursed my lips and she’d copy me and smile.
Today I was wearing Estee Lauder’s “Rosewood” from a fluted blue plastic cylinder they no longer make. Found in the bottom of my summer bag, it was really too old and too stale to be wearing. With most of its moisture gone, it went on like a sticky paste and left an aftertaste in my mouth, but at 99 cents, it was a priceless ticket to where my mother used to be.