"Powder and Paint make ya' what ya aint'"
As you can see from the photo above, my mother had an extensive collection of makeup. Amazing, high-end makeup, Laura Mercier, Armani, Francois Nars, Bobbi Brown, Chanel, makeup that I have not been able to part with. In an earlier post, I touched upon what a sweet time it was, just us girls, perusing a makeup counter together, looking for a new concealer, or that amazing lipstick that would change our faces, and how much I missed that time. I still miss that time, I will always miss that time. But recently, I have been thinking about what makeup meant to my mom as she became progressively more ill. It was the promise of a flush in her cheeks stolen by chemotherapy, or replacing moisture on her face after a physically exhausting day spent traveling from hospital to Dr's office in Manhattan's harsh midwinter.
I will never forget the day my mother told me she had cancer. It was August 2011, I was driving home from a yoga class, (I always tried to cram those classes in pre-beach beach time in NY) She tried to be nonchalant, telling me that a previously benign spot on her lung, had been diagnosed as cancer. She quickly went on to add that they were going to do a series of chemical treatments, and then she would move on to maintaining the cancer with chemotherapy in pill form. I am not sure, and will I never know, if this was a story of hope constructed for her or for me. She was the most afraid, I found out later on, that she was going to have to lose her hair in front of me. For all of the years we had a topsy-turvy parenting structure now my mom was trying desperately to protect me. As anyone can see from her pictures, she was a beautiful woman, and I think losing her hair was a terrible blow. My mom was old school, she had her hair done professionally, whenever she could, and it was amazing. She rocked a Jackie O flip, in and out of it's era's of coolness.
My mother went to the same salon near our home in Long Island for nearly 15 years. Keeping the same hairdresser for close to 10 years. This hairdresser gave my youngest daughter her very first haircut. This salon was known not only known for it's hairstyling, but also it's amazing hairpieces and wigs. The salon's wigs could veer into the thousands of dollars. So when my mother asked as a long time customer, if there was any way they could help her with a wig due to the cancer, they said matter a factly- no. "Our wigs are sought-after all over the world, and are of the highest quality, that is why they are so expensive". Let's be totally clear, my mother was not asking for a free wig, she was asking for a slight discount, on account of the 15 years of patronage, oh, and the cancer diagnosis, you horrible, horrible garbage heaps of humanity, My mother never went back. I don't blame her, and boy do I wish I could have given them an earful.
I was with my mother when she got the prescription for her wig (who knew that was prescribable?) and went with her to Barry Hendrickson's 'Bitz-n-pieces" in New York City. It is an unfortunate name I know, but she was treated with dignity there, and made to feel beautiful. The Stylist that worked with her was jovially flamboyant, and sensed my mothers trepidation, about the upcoming haircut (head shave, let's be honest) and told her how lucky she was to have such a great shaped head (actually she did). Proclaiming "honey, powder and paint make ya' what ya aint' your gonna look gorgeous!" Together we picked out a chic, 'Jennifer Aniston-esque' chestnut bob. My mother looked good in it, but from the moment she put it on I could tell she hated it. When I look back at pictures from that day, I can see the sadness in her face. Who can blame her? My mother lived year round in warm weather climates, and no matter how much sticky tape you used, it must have felt uncomfortable and unstable. Hell, I lose my mind after about 20 minutes of wig wearing on Halloween!
That's why I think we were all so excited when my mothers hair began to grow back in. It was not just about comfort, it was about hope. A sense of excitement that growth and life were coming back to my mom. We all loved how my mom looked with her new short hair, even my mom. She really did look great, rocking a salt and pepper pixie cut. There were only about six months when she was really sporting her short hair, but those images of her are some of my most vivid.
Mom-you were always a great beauty, because your beauty came from within. It was a radiating, palpable thing. It was not going to be stripped away from you when you lost your hair. It has not been stripped away even in your absence. It is carried on every day in every memory I have of you.