Happy Birthday Mama!
Today is my Mama's birthday. She turned 70. I am celebrating, not with cake or candles, but with this post, an homage to my mom's original style. While we've always had a different way of dressing, my style is in a deep debt to her own unique way of dress.
I have a particular memory I'd like to share with you. I was in grade school, probably the 2nd grade. She was dressing for an after-school function, as I watched her putting together an outfit. A lot of fussing was going on over finding the right outfit. Tops were buttoned up, then unbuttoned. Skirts were wrapped around, then removed. This seemed like a waste of time to me. My kid-method was simple- one drawer had tops, and one drawer had bottoms- so grab, grab, and dress. I never bothered matching by color just by my daily passions: my favorite (clean) top was always paired with my favorite (clean) bottoms. Done.
Same memory: Mama in the bathroom, putting on her make-up. Posed over the sink, her figure eerily frozen, the only moving limb, the hand that flicked jet black eye-liner over eye-lids. Nefertiti thick, she would draw an inky black line over the top lids. Then she would paint her mouth. Lipstick. Red as blood, bright as berries, my mama would apply the lipstick, and blot her lips with paper.Then she'd make her ritual finishing mouth with her upper lip stamping down on the lower lip, with her chin down and her eyes locked onto their reflection in the mirror.
Scene two: My mom at my school, her cranky insistence of holding my hand while walking to the classroom. Everything else is vague but I remember certain things vividly: her white sailor pants with black buttons on the front pockets. The legs flared slightly, and under the hem peeked out a pair of high heeled sandals. Then a blouse, a jersey knit top, in navy with white piping trim along the neck and cap sleeves.
When I looked around at the other parents, for a brief second, I was embarrassed- my mama looked NOTHING like the other mamas. She didn't dress like them and she didn't LOOK like them. They were apricot blonde with pale brown perms or straw-colored long hair that slumped past the shoulders. And NO make-up. They didn't wear sailor pants, cherry red lips and black eyeliner for sure. They milled about in crew neck sweaters, button down shirts and khaki skirts, worn with very sensible shoes.
Her eyes and her lips and her pants did NOT look like them. Momentarily I was mortified. And then the blaze of a realization that my mother was beautiful. She stuck out because she was a beauty. And she dressed like she was beautiful. She didn't seem too comfortable with it, either. But she did it. Because she WAS it. I remember staring at her profile in the car as she drove us home. I felt like I was seeing her for the first time- the stick straight jet black hair cut sharply above the shoulders, the thick kohl eyeliner holding down her almost sleepy, almond shaped eyes, her soft skin the color of a toasted biscuit. Like a moth to fire I was drawn to the full painted red lips that framed her large toothy smile. She was a song in the land of whispers.
So here's to the original Q- my Queen, my Mama in celebration of her 70th birthday. Happy Birthday!
xo. -Bella Q