Mom and her makeup
My mother always “put on her face” in the morning after breakfast. While we were busy getting dressed for school, she was in the pink-tiled bathroom. She always switched both the overhead light and the heating lamp on so the room glowed orange. Somehow, she still got the color right: the Covergirl foundation, the Max Factor pressed powder in the little mirrored compact, the eyeliner and, after curling her lashes with one of those metal contraptions, the Maybelline mascara and a swipe of Revlon lipstick. More than one swipe of lipstick. Somewhere amid all that, she took the curlers out of her hair. Then she was ready to walk us to the bus stop at the end of our driveway.
Some days, before we had actual neighbors, the bus driver was the only other adult mom saw besides my dad. But she always put on her face.
Mom used the money left over from buying groceries to buy her lipstick. If she had a few dollars left after checking out at Safeway, we’d go to the drugstore next to the grocery so she could inspect the latest colors, testing each of them on her wrist, one by one, to see if it would work with her skin.
I couldn’t tell the difference between the colors she bought although she favored the more neutral and matte colors instead of bright red or pink tones. Rarely, she veered into the territory of eggplant. But she never seemed to be able to find just the right shade for her olive skin. Most of the time, she blended a few of the shades together to make something all her own.
At night, Mom reversed the routine, “taking off her face” with a scoop of Pond’s Cold Cream. For a long time I was confused about that name — the cream wasn’t that cold and it require refrigeration — but I can still smell that cream and think of my mom.
I’m one of those people for whom Mother’s Day could be complicated. It’s been more than 15 years since my mom passed and our relationship was thorny to begin with. But the good thing about time and distance is its easy to see now how much better it feels to choose forgiveness and appreciation for the person who gave me a life than the alternative.