Sunday, November 18, 2012

Styled: What I learned from watching my mother

My mom and I joke that we share a brain, often thinking and saying aloud the same things at the same time. On my last visit home, in the height of cold & flu season, I learned that she knows she is sick when music no longer makes her dream of dancing; I choreograph ice-skating and stage numbers in my head. We have a (twisted) sense of humor in common, as well as a love for subdued style. Sorting through boxes of family photos, I remember her long a-line skirts in early 80s reddish-brown corduroy,  her calf-high heeled black boots that zipped up the back, her lack of jewelry expect for pieces from her mother that held special meaning. 

We would sit at the donut shop by the Payless Drugstore in a strip mall in Eugene, and I would rummage through my mom’s shoulder bag. She’d keep talking or listening to her friend Donna, a woman I remember having a big, toothy smile and straight blonde hair, while mom leaned down to help me find what I was looking for – a little pot of burgandy-tinged lip gloss. Watching the women out of the corner of my eye, I’d unscrew the clear plastic lid and dip a pinky into the gooey sticky gloss, then pretend that I was looking soulfully into a hand mirror to carefully apply the gloss. It meant grown-up glamour. I’d daintily smack my lips together as I’d seen women do, and grin at my mom.  I was four, and this was our girl-time.  My older sister was at school, and I had mom and Donna all to myself.

Looking back, I learned that it didn't matter what you were wearing, how your hair was styled, or whether your lips shone like a glossy magazine photo. What mattered was sharing life, time, and conversation with friends.  That cheap coffee and donuts could be transformed into a communion of sorts, with coloring books and bananas for a little girl who was soaking it all in.

Mom and Christina feeding ducks, mom and her nephew Jeff, and me in a sundress sewn by my mom.

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