This micro memoir draws on my own memories and on the telling and retelling of funny stories in our family over the years. I hope you enjoy it and maybe it will bring up some lovely memories of your own. It’s dedicated to my Mum for Mother’s Day.
My mother’s dressing table was clustered with treasures when I was a little girl.
Her silver-plated jewellery box had Queen Anne legs which curved out from underneath and rested on little feet. Intricately decorated, it was inlaid on the top with a ceramic cameo. The profile of a girl with golden hair and a rose behind her ear, set against a rich backdrop of red.
The small collection of jewellery boxes, make up and perfume was multiplied by the mirror that extended up the back of the dresser, hinged on wooden pillars to either side.
Hanging from the corner of the mirror was a brown wig in the same colour as my Mum’s own hair.
I was fascinated. “Mum, why do you wear a wig when it looks just the same as your hair?”
Apparently she kept it set in the perfect ‘do,’ ready to pop on for a party, as women did in those days. That wig may have seen some action in the 1960s and early 70s, but it wasn’t worn as much once there were five children to look after.
On special occasions you might get to stand beside Mum while she opened tubes and cases, and dabbed her face with this and that.
She finished off her look with a touch of lipstick. I watched as the lid came off, out twisted the colour and across her mouth it would glide. She smacked her lips together before pressing them against a tissue. A red kiss left on white.
How I longed to put some on.
We weren’t allowed to touch. But Mum would sometimes get her jewellery boxes down and show me the sparkles and trinkets she kept inside. Each piece had its own story. Each one a memory of a time or a person in her life. A value based on more than just a price tag.
“Your father bought me that one before you kids were born,” she said. It was a necklace and hanging from its length was a delicate golden egg, with a watch face on one end.
During moments when Mum was busy at the other end of the house, I would slink up to the table in her bedroom but dared not lift any lids.
My own guilt reflected back as the mirror tilted down at me. Trying to keep an eye to the door in case Mum was coming, though soon entranced by glittery things.
In behind the wire legged stool with its velour cushion I would go, squeezed up against the dresser to get the best look.
From there I could see her powder puff in duck egg blue, nestled in the back corner. It had a frosting of white around scalloped edges and the pattern across the top was also picked out in white. Inside the circular bowl was a ball of fluff that concealed the powder beneath.
Mum loved that powder. It was one of the little luxuries she allowed herself because money was tight and the kids came first.
She would puff some on while getting dressed. If you were lucky enough to share bath time with her, you might get a puff under each arm and a surprise one somewhere else. That fine white mist, descending into giggles.
Happy moments with Mum’s pretty things.
The temptation was eventually too much for us. Lipstick all over little faces. One boy and several girls each had a go at one time or another.
Then one day, the precious powder was puffed all over the couch.
One moment it’s a two-person powder fight, then Mum walks in. Two girls become fixed to the spot, along with all that powder. It’s as though the coloured stripes of the carpet have become the most interesting thing in the room for a little girl.
We may not have spotted Mum’s stifled smiles, but surely when the camera came out we knew we could breath out again. Perhaps we could even explain away the evidence that was written all over our faces?
“I didn’t do it,” says one.
“It wasn’t me,” says the other.
To this day, I cannot see powder without thinking of my Mum. Sorry Mum! The things we put you through! The things you went without for us.
I’m so grateful for all your hard work and sacrifices over the years for the love and support of our family. Happy Mother’s Day!