Rarely did my mother go out when we were young. So when she did she made the very most of it. Mom loved to get all dolled up. She would do her hair, nails, makeup, fancy girl clothes, you know, the works. It was always an all day affair. It took time to transform from an ordinary house wife into an extraordinary beauty queen. She just loved the entire process. I remember how she was happy and excited and her mood was so contagious.
It would start early in the morning with the washing and rolling of her long brown hair. She had these huge bright green plastic rollers. They had holes in them big enough for me to stick the tip of my pinky finger inside. The giant curlers came with these gray hair clips with little plastic tips on the ends so they wouldn’t scratch the scalp. Mom would use a comb to part a section of her hair. Roll her wet hair tightly around the large curler and secure it in place with a clip. Sometimes mom would hold her pins in her mouth as she rolled her hair up. Sometimes my sisters and I would hold them for her, hand them to her, when needed. She repeated the process over and over again till her entire head was completely covered and there wasn’t a stray hair to be found. After that she would cover her head with a silky multicolored floral scarf. It was nothing to go to the grocery store and see other mom’s with their hair done up the exact same way, curlers and scarves.
In the afternoon, Mom would give herself a manicure and a pedicure. this always require a lot of tools. nail files and clippers, cotton balls and Q-tips, with many little bottles of nail polish. She would lay out a wash rag and neatly line everything out. She would soak her feet in a basin of warm water with some secret potion to make her skin silky soft. than my mom would paint her finger nails a deep ruby red. my sisters and I would always be ready and waiting with the Q-tips and a bottle of nail polish remover just in case she painted outside the lines.
in the evening when it was an hour or so before time to go she would begin her make-up. Mom stood in her slip with her back to us. our eyes would be glued to her reflection in the mirror. she always made funny faces as she put on her makeup. she would start by smearing beige lipstick under her eyes. why are you putting lipstick under your eyes? lip stick goes on you lips. my older sister would laugh and say no silly that isn’t lip stick, it’s cover up stick. you use it to cover up the dark circles under her eyes. she would pluck her eyebrows than darken them with a pencil. brush on eye shadow and glue on false eyelashes. blush time was funny face time. she would stretch her jaw, raise her eyebrows high on her forehead and paint her cheeks .
the lip stick always caused a giggle or two. how could it not make us laugh with the big O mouth, try to stay in the lines, than the big toothy grin to make sure no red lipstick on the pearly whites.
Way back when, big hair was in. to have big hair you have to tease and tease and tease some more. my mother’s dark brown hair was long and thick. it took some time to tease it all. My sister’s and I always giggled when she had all her hair sticking straight up on end before she began to gentle brush it down in again.
why do you brush your hair back down after you spent all that time teasing it up mommy? she would look at me and laugh, ‘well don’t you think (tink) they (dey)would laugh at me if I went to the(de) party with my hair sticking up?’
she smelled of hair spray, face powers , and jean-nate. a light sweet fragrance that always defined mom.
My sister’s and I were the four little Indians watching mom put on her war paint. some days we would be there from beginning to end. other days one of us would just happen by and see that she was holding her hair pick in one hand and the tube of V05 in another and run screaming down to the hall, “mom’s teasing her hair! mom’s teasing her hair!” and of course we would all race into watch her finish.
mom would dance the gig getting into her panty hose, slip into her party dress and high heel shoes, turn and look at us all.
“so, how do I look?”
and she was.
and she still is.
she would give us each a kiss on the cheek.
mom’s lip prints,
a stamp of her love