Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lipstick & things.

I have been helping my mom go through some of my grandmother's things. It's a very odd process, ruffling through the belongings of someone who is no longer here. Grandmother is otherwise preoccupied & can't be bothered with these things now. She's dancing with angels. In her whole, healed, completely perfect body, she is praising her Maker. And to be blunt: we're stuck with her junk.
Who got the better end of that deal?

My mother & I are in the midst of planning a yard sale, but I wonder if it will be too difficult for my mom to see her own mother's things decorated with polka dotted stickers in shades of neon, listening to bartering customers qualifying the value of her once-loved possessions.
But we have kept those items that are sacred to us. Brother kept a portrait of grandma + grandpa standing in front of their house on Guemes Island. One cousin kept a quilt, another a string of pearls. My sister-in-law kept the double decker pie carrier. The bell collection has been divided amongst the great grandkids. Each family member has kept a token or two of some item they've attached a memory to, a special relic that brings them instantly back to a specific time or place.

Rummaging through the closet in grandmother's bedroom was the worst. "Worst" as in "you will experience tremendous heart-twisting if you dare to enter". Her scent still lingers on her bathrobe. The flannel shirt hanging in her closet now hangs in mine–and I can't stop burying my face in it. I'm not the only one that smells everything. It was fun seeing my aunts during the memorial service last month. They'd walk through the house, pick something up, & sniff at it. I've seen several people take a whiff of the pillows on grandmother's couch, the jackets in her closet.

In the course of organizing, we found her antique flour sifter still covered in a light dusting of flour, maybe from the last thing she ever baked. The bean pot is spotted with dried bits of beans. Her name, in her own handwriting, is written on the bottom of plastic-ware. Board games & toys, brand new in their boxes, were tucked in a cupboard—possibly saved for future presents for little ones. I even found a list she had written of last season's American Idol contestants, along with their toll-free phone numbers, so she could call in & vote for her favorite. (She loved that show.)

Not surprisingly, we have stumbled across a few tubes of lipstick.
Cozy Mauve zipped in a purse pocket.
Pink Satin in a bathroom drawer.
Instant Mocha in the bottom of a handbag.
My grandmother never left the house without applying some lipstick.
Always with the lipstick.

Even in the hospital, after a massive stroke, the nurses were impressed at her ability to put it on perfectly...without a mirror. She wore lipstick ALL. THE. TIME. She even told me once that she never had chapped lips in her whole life. I bet! I can guarantee that I'm not the only one in the family who has memories of grandmother putting on her lipstick.

Before discarding the contents of the drawer in the the bathroom, it was important to me to capture a last real-life still-life moment. So I did.

We all have our ways of dealing with grief, with saying goodbye, with processing the pain that the heartache brings. And, well, maybe a lipstick photo-shoot is one way for me to let go.
It might look like a generic tube of lipstick to you, a plastic capsule of unimportance.
But that right there is my grandmother.
She touched that.
And wore that.
It is my time machine. And I am carried away to the past....because that is all I have with her anymore.


  1. Thank you for sharing something so personal and hard and beautiful. :)

  2. I just love this absolutely love I'm sure your Grammy would seal it with a pink kiss of approval if she could


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment. Every time you do, I do a little happy dance. For reals.