She is the reason I do what I do, why I love what I love. My mama was my first and most important inspiration in my life, especially for all-things makeup. My earliest makeup memory is that of my mother getting dressed to go out with Daddy. Her beautiful, dark hair, golden complexion, and red lips. I remember her being so pretty and not wanting her to leave. No babysitter could take her place; no one could make me feel so comfortable or loved. I wanted her to keep her rollers in place a little while longer. The hard rollers with the stick-pins that held them in her hair. The can of aerosol hairspray that would shellac her short bouffant. She’d laugh and patiently wait as I swiped my little finger across her red lips in order to put some on mine.
It was a surreal experience to pack away those same old rollers two weeks ago. As I stood in her bathroom and put together all her personal belongings to make their way to her new home, I flashed back to that first bathroom of hers that I could remember. The one where I was three years old. Those rollers. Those pink stick pins. She still uses the AquaNet spray. I was a little dumbstruck how she held on to all the upscale makeup I have given her over the years, nearly untouched, and yet her Maybelline and Revlon and Max Factor bottles were nearly empty. Some habits die hard, I suppose.
My mom’s new home is a nursing home. Her physician said it was time. Her dementia said it was past time. Mama’s moments of clarity make this one of the hardest transitions of both our lives. At 78, her miraculously-still-brunette hair with only a few grays at her temples, seem almost deceiving in a sea of white to blue hair. It’s one of the reasons she feels she does not belong there. At her core, she’s still a proud woman, vain in her appearance. Lipstick is her pick-me-up. A tweeze of a stray hair lifts her spirits. A dab of Frances Denney’s Interlude or Hope perfume behind each ear, makes her feel polished.
Mama has a standing appointment at the facility’s beauty salon each week. Shampoo and set. God bless the nail technician who volunteers her time each week to come in and paint these ladies’ fingernails. My mom is right in line and makes the chit-chat as she waits her turn.
Lots of changes going on. Some funny, some heart-wrenching, but all are part of this new chapter in her story. And through it all, she’s still one of the great beauties of my life. I love you, Mama.