Every year I have the daunting task of buying my mother a Mother’s Day card. They are usually too sappy for my liking. Is there a card out there that gives vibe of “you weren’t always there when I needed you…you meant well…glad we’re cool now…”
A lot of my friends have great relationships with their mothers and I was always jealous of that – my mother is different. She’s loud, opinionated, embarrassing at times but she has a big heart and she dreams even bigger. Even though we were not close when I was younger, we are now starting to get along better – I thank my daughter for that.
When I said she wasn’t always there it’s because I was shuttled back and forth to Guam where my maternal grandparents lived after leaving the Agnos municipality of the Pangasinan province in the Ilocos region of the Philippines. She was young mother (23), in a new city (San Francisco) and the only family she had with her was a sister that wasn’t much older than her and really didn’t want to be a babysitter. Therefore, I would live with my grandparents and her siblings in Guam. My father wasn’t in the picture at the time until much later…I’ll just say he was popular with the ladies. Don’t worry, I have a great relationship with him and love him dearly.
When I try to channel my own spin on early 70’s chic, I think of my mother. My mom had it going on – she had the long black straight Cher hair, wore a bit of makeup to accentuate her exotic bohemian beauty and those shoes in the first pic – something I would totally wear now! She had major style that trickled in my young wardrobe. Well I wasn’t always willing – when I wanted to wear a dress, she put me in a boy’s suit for my kindergarten school picture. The year was 1979 and she was still in her Annie Hall phase. I got teased, I hated her for it but I look back and I now know why I adore the tomboy chic style of Sofia Coppola, Charlotte Gainsbourg and of course Katherine Hepburn.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really bond with my mother as a child so I don’t have a whole lot of memories with her. I do recall crossing the Bay Bridge many times to her friends’ homes in the East Bay with Air Supply blasting on her car stereo. I can’t lie, I do have a soft spot for Air Supply and I’m not ashamed to admit that. The thing I remembered most was being 4-5 years old, sitting on her toilet watching her get ready for work. I would dip my finger in the whipped cream of her fancy coffee. What made it fancy? A healthy addition of Kahlua, of course!
I remember this on her bathroom counter top:
Indian Earth powder. I’m going to guess that this was an early form of bronzer or a terracotta shade blusher. The powder puff just added to the glamour. I was transfixed by the colors in the palettes that laid out in front of her. I wanted to cover my mouth with her lipstick, put on her fake lashes and lose myself in massive clouds of her perfume.
She had a fondness for Shiseido products so these were staples in her beauty ammunition:
Later in the early 80’s she wore the Diane Von Furstenburg scent, Tatiana and I’m pretty sure that’s where my sister got her name. Seriously, I became obsessed with makeup. I would watch shows like Three’s Company and rather than focusing on John Ritter’s genius physical comedy, I was transfixed by Joyce DeWitt’s smoky eye shadow and glossy red lips. When I colored in my Barbie themed coloring books, my favorite things to color were Barbie’s face because I would play makeup artist with my crayons. If I was given Tinkerbelle toy makeup I’d try to recreate a look I saw on a show or in a magazine on my own five year old face. My daydreams featured me running around town all dolled up like Charlie perfume commercial. I never created or daydreamed about a wedding…I was living through my Barbie dolls, being glamorous and dancing at night clubs.
I would get in trouble if caught playing with her makeup or any makeup in general. My mom did let me wear light lip gloss but anything heavier than that and I didn’t even want to think of the trouble that would cause. So you can imagine how torn I was in seventh grade with most of the girls around me were sporting full face Maybelline, Cover Girl or Wet n’ Wild makeup! One of my girlfriends in my homeroom class would loan me her makeup and I would then treat the classroom as my personal vanity table. Okay first of all, we don’t need to discuss the lack of hygiene here and secondly, this was the 80’s – I looked like a applied eye shadow on my eyes like it was spackle. Later that night, I forgot to wash my face before my mom got home. She took one look at my face and yelled at me. Not because I disobeyed her but because I looked cheap and she didn’t like the thought of me using second hand makeup. The next day I got my very first palette – it was by Maybelline. I was so happy.
As I entered high school, the makeup got expensive. Our relationship was even more strained because of my stubborn rebellious attitude – something I inherited from her. We fought almost daily. What kept us in agreement? Makeup. My makeup pouch went from Wet ‘n Wild lip and eye pencils to Lancome face powder, matte red lipstick and black kohl eye liner. Yes, in my mind I was a french woman. Well I tried hard to tune into my inner Isabella Rossellini. I also discover Dior and Chanel makeup at this time. I urged my mother to buy this for herself so I could borrow it, sneaky yes but damn it, I need to flash that double C’s lipstick in my AP English class!
It’s true, you really don’t appreciate your parents until you become one. Another constant – my mother always kept up her appearances when I was young and she still knows how to work a red lip now. I am the same way, well I’m not always wearing red lips but I will always leave the house with my eye brows perfectly done. I even made sure my brows were waxed days before I went into labor. I feel complete and comfortable with my brows done – I’m not apologizing for it and I’m pretty sure my mother doesn’t either.
Now it’s coming full circle – my daughter sometimes watches me get ready for work and she’ll beg and ask for ‘lisstick‘ but I just grab the nearest lip gloss, which happens to be from NARS, MAC or Chanel, and I dot her lips with pigment ever so lightly. But I relax and realize that she is still innocent and she is very girly. She also likes to dip her little fingers in any shadow or blush pan on display at Sephora and she applies them with abandonment on her face. I will take her to the nearest mirror and she giggles with delight. I even paint her toes on occasion. I know I shouldn’t indulge her like this because I fear that I’m indirectly teaching her to rely on cosmetics to make herself feel better. I also know that along with introducing her to the world of beauty, I read to her (almost) every night, I quiz her on her colors and letters and we sing songs. I try to keep the television off as long as possible when I bring her home from school so she can color, look at her books or just let her imagination wonder when she plays with her toys.
I also picked up the habit of fragrance collecting from memories of my mother’s bottles of Lancome’s Tresor, YSL Paris, Lauren, the aforementioned Tatiana on her dresser. My daughter also has picked up on this new hobby of mine when she told me I smelled like a flower. She loves when I spray a very light mist of fragrance on her arm.
Her favorite seems to be Frederic Malle’s En Passant because it makes her smell like a flower. She giggles loudly and it makes her so happy. How can I say no to that joy?
My mother and I are a work in progress. I wasn’t able to get her a Mother’s Day gift so I thought I’d turn the tables by treating her to something at the makeup counter of Macy’s for old time’s sake!
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