Time Warp

This is the mascara that my mother used. After she put on her foundation and powder and a bit of rouge and sometimes a wee beauty mark if she was feeling extra sharp, she’d bring the tray up to her lips and spit on the mascara cake. Then she’d move the brush back and forth until it was loaded with mascara and then she’d have at it with her eyelashes.

She sat at a vanity table while she put on her make-up and sometimes I sat on my folks’ bed and watched. It was there I learned the order of things.

Several years ago, I wrote an essay about going to my father’s house after my mother died. And, not surprisingly now, looking back, make-up played an outsized role in my reaction to her death. In the essay, I refer to the tiny red mascara box and the mascara cake that required a squirt of spit. So, I read this essay to my writers’ workshop on Tuesday and it wasn’t until I read the words out loud that I realized that this bit of fact, this cultural reference from the 50’s, was likely unknown to the people listening.

This was eye-opening, so to speak.

I am an older woman writing. And the metaphors and images that are in my mental inventory, the Volkswagen with the engine in the rear and the trunk in the front, the seams on my nylons that were never straight, the Kotex I threaded through an elastic belt I wore for five days every month, all of these things are cultural references from another century.

I am agape at that.

My grandmother was born in the century before the last century. I knew and loved a person who was born in 1884 and now it is 2020. That’s a span of 136 years. It’s brain-frying to ponder, if you ask me. But I am pondering it, nonetheless.

The choice is then to find a more current metaphor or to explain more about the tiny red box of mascara and, of course, I am choosing the latter. Because that is where I’m tied, that is where I’m anchored, sitting on the bed in my mother’s bedroom, watching her put on her make-up, learning the order of things. That’s the story I tell.

9 Comments on “Time Warp

  1. I suppose from now on when we write we will have to have annotations to explain things to young readers. Your Kotex belt reminded me of the pin on underarm perspiration pads to prevent rings under our dresses.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perfect. And while I remember the sanitary napkin belts ( we have indeed come a LONG way, baby) I’d never seen the kind of mascara your mother used. That’s cool. A little icky, but cool.


  3. I recognised all your 1950’s cultural references – I was there too! I also had my little red Maybelline box of mascara, we all did. I think it was the only brand available. Thanks for the memories – yo9u write them so well!


  4. I made an art piece out of my mother’s compact.. I’ll publish a photo of it tomorrow. It was the one main thing I wanted of my mothers. When I opened it a few years ago, I could still smell the scent of her powder.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I well remember that mascara in the rectangular red box. And the loose powder with he powder puff that was padded silk on the top and fluffy on the bottom–with a little open-weave silk circular divider that you pressed down into the powder with the powder puff so only a little powder sifts through. My mothers powder case had a silver lame botton with a black enamel and silver cover. I have it still. And the powder puff top still shows her fingerprints in red lipstick from her smoothing her lipstick with her finger before putting on her powder.

    Liked by 3 people

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