The Lipstick Promise

Bored at a building meeting, we’d whisper an ever important question to one another,  If you could only have ONE make-up component, what would it be? Heather always opted for her beloved eyelash curler -which to this day perplexes me.  Camille went for foundation.  Mascara was Barb’s favorite.  For me the answer was of course lipstick.

My obsession began in the 60s when I fell for Yardley of London lipstick whose advertisements were aired during the Monkeys TV show.  I had a crush on Davy Jones and Yardley lipstick would be a prerequisite to our romance.  I was OK with moving to London to be closer to both Davy and Yardley.

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My stylish mother was equally obsessed.  She always had her compact at the ready.  She would flip it open, extract the lipstick, and use the round mirror to apply her trademark ruby red – in full view of fancy dinner guests, while sitting at a traffic light, or simply mid-conversation.  (I should probably look into a compact myself since my lipstick inevitably ends up on my teeth and even my chin.  How this happens, I have no idea.)

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My mom died on October 2, 2010, in a hospice bed, surrounded by her adult children and grandchildren.  Her hand rested on her beloved Bible, and her lips sported ruby red.  (Hospice nurses are angels in disguise.)

In the days that followed I reflected on our complicated relationship.  I would not miss her critical comments “for my own good”.   But who would ask whether or not I was taking vitamin C?  Who would care whether I had a sniffle or sore throat?

Back in Chicago I sat at the kitchen table overwhelmed with sadness.  I couldn’t pick up the phone and hear her chiding, “Oh Barclay, I never can get hold of you.  You’re so busy!”  Or be touched by her concern, “Are you getting enough sleep?”

I idly picked up a pen and pad of paper to begin a grocery list.  I would distract myself along the aisles of Happy Foods, a store my mother would never have set foot in, Whole Foods being more her style.

She was also not a cry-er.  I would hold back tears.

That’s when I looked at the writing utensil in my hand.  It was a lipstick-pen which I had taken from mom’s Florida home a few visits ago.  Ruby red.

Sorry Mom, the tears came…but with joy overriding sadness.

This lipstick-pen was a reminder that my mother was alive and well, her compact at the ready.

Maybe listening to a Davy Jones single.


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Oh the ways God communicates to his people!




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