May 9, 2017

Personal Essay by Janine Pickett: "Lasting Impressions"

Janine Pickett is Founding Editor of Indiana Voice Journal and Spirit Fire Review. Her work has been published in various online and print journals, and commercial magazines.

Lasting Impressions

                Some of our more daring conversations happened while my mother was applying her
make-up -- a morning ritual, complete with coffee, that also served as an invitation to chat.
                “Have a seat,” she’d say, pointing her wand of color at the chair across from her. I’d join
my mother at the kitchen table amidst a vast array of cosmetics -- pencils, powders, lipstick and
blush -- serious stuff, setting the tone for serious talks. Girl stuff. Our conversations were
intense, personal and I always came away from them feeling deeply connected, reassured and
loved. What I remember most are the answers I found in the long silences, when she’d stop to
paint her lips, or curl an eyelash, or make a point, or to smile at my teenage dreams.
My mother died a few years ago after a courageous battle with cancer and I inherited,
among other things, her beauty supplies -- a wooden treasure chest to be gone through with my
own daughter. I took the abandoned chest from the closet, set it on the bed, and invited Brittny
into the room.
                 “Have a seat,” I said, patting the spot next to me. “This box belonged to your
grandmother.” Captivated by the colorful contents -- foundation and powders, tubes and wands,
lotions and ointments, polish and files, spritzes and sprays -- my bedroom soon became a salon, a
place of mystical transformations. A place for girl stuff.
                    We “played” in the make-up. We rubbed foundation into our faces. We rouged our
cheeks with corals and pinks. We lined our eyes with pearls and frosts. And we pondered
surprising lipstick shades. Some tubes were worn down to the rim, while others seemed fairly
new. Sleek, delicate and sometimes broken wands of color. Our painted and filed nails flashed
with enamels -- reds and whites, purples and blues. We impersonated the top models, promoting
the cosmetic companies while wearing heels and practicing our walk. We laughed, we giggled
and as the excitement wore down, we talked.
                    Some of our more daring conversations happened during the long silences, while we
brushed and styled our hair. We talked about choices and changes, school and boys, life and
death. It was my chance to reach out to my daughter, and her chance to let me in. We came away
from that evening with a stronger, renewed relationship. We felt connected, reassured and loved.
I knew the make-up would wash away and our curls would fall flat, but the memories, the bond
we created, would last forever.
I realized the important lessons my mother had taught me -- trust has to be earned,
relationships have to be built, and love will outlive death. I lifted the neatly folded tissue we
found at the bottom of the make-up chest and handed it to my daughter. It was stained red, and
imprinted with my mother’s last kiss.

~Janine Pickett
For my mom, on Mother's Day.

First published in Chicken Soup for the Soul

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