Thanks Mom

March 14, 2010 at 7:51 am 3 comments

What is it about these curlers?

They look funny and they never hold all the hair you want them to. They sometimes even hurt a bit and they are surely an awkward item to store, but, I admit here to you today that I love my curlers. I don’t use them very often. On a normal day, I barely have time to camouflage a cowlick with the curling iron or a strategically placed barrette.

But. Every once in a while, when I have all the time in the world, I put the curlers in. And I get such a big kick out of them. I walk around. I jiggle my head. I look in the mirror and I giggle.

Today, with a jiggle and a giggle, I pondered this odd thrill. And I found myself back in time.

I am sitting in the kitchen at 312 Pennsylvania with my Mom and my sister. Curlers and pin curls in my hair. A great big balloon of a hat, puffing heat and slipping down my forehead. That balloon-hat of course was part of an old-fashioned hair dryer. For those who have only grown up with the hand-held variety, picture an over-sized shower cap made of vinyl. And picture a big tube connected to that cap, connected to a box-contraption with buttons, connected to an electrical cord, plugged into the wall. And imagine sitting, connected to all this for half an hour or longer.

Sounds awful doesn’t it? So why oh why does the memory make me smile?

Because it is something uniquely girlish – or, more specifically, uniquely mother-daugther-rite-of-passage-ish.

It belongs to a collection of moments in life when you discover the things that are (feminists be damned) distinctly female. How to bake a batch of cookies. How to set the table. How to iron, do laundry, sew on a button. Can you remember when these things were not chores? When they were exciting and new and, yes, fun.

Better yet think of the moments when your Mom let you go through her jewelry, revealing hidden treasures in velvet cases, little pouches, old boxes. Beads and gems and sparkly items. This was my mother’s. This was a gift from your Dad when we were dating. Go ahead, you can try it on.

Entrance to the inner sanctum!

Didn’t every girl, at some point in time, fall in love—and, yes, covet!—her mother’s Pretty Things? My Mom had a pair of patent-leather, ankle-high, kitten-heel boots that, to this day, I think were the most smashing pair of shoes I have ever seen.

There was a kind of magical osmosis that occurred when you witnessed her excitement when getting dressed up. In a pretty dress, wearing the special jewelry, and a bit of makeup. This was not everyday Mom who made you clean your room, stand in the corner, and finish your dinner. To trail after her as she got ready and then watch her put on her good coat and go out the front door with Dad with a big smile on her face, looking even more beautiful than ever. These were real-life Cinderella moments.

That is why, I believe, we women still, years and years and years removed from those front-door moments, get a little inexplicably giddy about things like the perfect shade of lipstick, a pretty perfume bottle, a sexy dress, a new pair of shoes. And yes, even curlers.

Curlers look silly and feel weird, but they also look and feel like a treat because they remind me of having my Mom do my hair; of being allowed to use Her Things; of feeling loved, pampered, and joyfully girlie.

That joy is not, as some may see it—or as today’s advertising and movies may portray it—a symbol of vanity or veneer. I believe these things are symbols of something to be cherished. Pretty Things are a connection to the child we were and the women we adore. Amidst the run-down monotony of work and responsibility, we remember fairy tales. Despite a few extra pounds, gray hairs, or worry lines, we may yet carry a few secret bits and baubles that reveal our true identity, our inner princess.

So, I may be spending a rainy Sunday, wearing sweats and ratty slippers, doing laundry, scooping cat pooh, and putting out the garbage, but my hair looks fabulous.

What’s one of your favorite items from your Mom’s closet, jewelry box, or dress-up routine?

Entry filed under: Life Preservers. Tags: , , , , .

Cheers to the Girls How To Make a Pie

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Meg  |  March 15, 2010 at 6:57 am

    1) A bracelet from Sarah Coventry that had faux gemstones the size of quarters connected to each other with silver hinge-like pieces. I think there was a matching necklace and maybe earrings (clip ons) but the bracelet is what I remember.
    2) A purse made of wicker with two metal coiled handles…almost seems like a small picnic basket. I have it upstairs in my spare room closet! My sisters (and probably brothers) and I loved opening up that purse to see what was inside. I think it was an every day purse for my mom vs. dress-up, I’ll have to ask her.


  • 2. WritingbyEar  |  March 21, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Like you, I loved getting to look through my mother’s jewelry with her — all the little boxes of treasures that to this day are still in her dressing table just as they were 40-some years ago. My favorite from her closet was an amazing dark brown fur coat (I’m not sure if it’s real fur or not) from some old Pittsburgh landmark store like Boggs & Buhl that was just soooo cool and must have weighed 20 lbs. I’m sure we’ll rediscover it in the attic one day. Oh, and the smell of Revlon Aquamarine lotion will always equal Mom.


  • 3. Ruth  |  March 24, 2010 at 2:53 am

    First of all you hair always looks gorgeous!

    My mom’s pearls–gift from dad (not sure when).
    That deep pink and black tweed suit (with a skirt, of course, no pants!) and a black shell—I was actually lucky to be skinny enough to wear this during the 80’s.
    ..and that white pair of leather gloves.



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