92: Lessons in Lipstick

92: Lessons in Lipstick

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Lessons in Lipstick

Mirror mirror on the wall, I am my mother after all.

~Author Unknown

“This is how you do your eyebrows,” Mom said, lifting up an old toothbrush. “First, you brush them backwards,” she said, doing so as I watched. “Then, you brush them straight up.” Whisk, whisk, whisk. “And then, you knock them down.” She smoothed her brows into place and smiled.

Before she married Dad and had the four of us, Mom was a model. When I was a teen getting ready for the big high school dance and she offered a make-up lesson, I listened.

“When you put on foundation,” Mom said, tipping some Max Factor ivory out of its glass bottle and onto her fingers, “make sure you don’t stop right at your jawline.” Fingers moving smoothly over her skin, she lifted her chin. “You always want to look natural, so you don’t want a line to show where your make-up starts and stops.”

Over the years, I’ve probably watched Mom put on her “face” a million times. When I think of that foundation, I can still smell its lovely scent. For many years, until they quit making it in that bottle, I used it, too.

“Line your eyes like this.” Mom leaned closer to the mirror, pulling the side of her eyelid gently, to make the skin taut. Then she skimmed the pencil on in one light stroke.

Even though Mom was beautiful and took care with her appearance every day, she was never conceited or vain. Looks weren’t what really mattered in her book. She cared much more about less ephemeral qualities like honesty, loyalty, kindness, and compassion. But the night of the big dance, I wasn’t thinking about any of those things.

“Always brown-black mascara for daytime,” she stated. “Save black for evening events.” She flicked the wand briskly, coating her lashes with a practiced hand. To this day, my mascara is brown-black, except for special evenings.

“With our complexion,” she continued, “a soft coral color looks best.” She twisted the sleek black tube in her hand, revealing a creamy bit of lipstick. “Red can look too harsh and darker shades don’t look natural.” She drew the color over her lips, top lip first, from the center out. She pressed her lips together just once. “There.”

If I’d been willing to listen, of course, I could have learned lots of other important things from Mom. Like how to make that fabulous vegetable soup I still dream of, or Gramma’s legendary Presbyterian stew. I could have mastered diapering a baby, or reupholstering a chair, or planting a summer garden.

Mom could have taught me to knit, if I’d only been willing to concentrate a little harder. There’s an unfinished scarf in my closet, one Mom was making just for me. I’m thinking of taking a class so someday I can finish what she began.

But, in the meantime, every morning I look into the bathroom mirror and apply my make-up just the way Mom showed me years ago. Sometimes, in a trick of the light, I see her looking back. It’s just me, of course, older now, with Mom’s softer jawline and fuller cheeks. I’m so glad to find her there. That’s when I smile, give her a wink and say, “Thanks, Mom.”

~Kate Fellowes

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