Tuesday, December 25, 2018

My Mother's Lipstick

When our mom died of cancer, my sisters and I were desperate to hold onto our memories of her. Over the next few days, we wore out her voicemail so we could hear her voice again and scrounged through her to-do lists for a memento of her thoughts. We divided up photos and letters. One sister kept her silver mirror, another, her cookbooks because they had always cooked together. 

But what did I want? I wanted to bottle her laughter, preserving in perpetuity our silly jokes. I wanted a soft blanket of her kindness to warm me when the world was cold. I wanted more time.

What I took was her favorite lipstick, slightly worn down and not my shade. The following year, on my son's birthday, I took it out of the drawer and put it to good use. While he slept, I wrote Happy Birthday on his bathroom mirror with that lipstick. I drew a cake and balloons and hearts. He started his birthday with a big grin on his face and was touched to learn it was grandma's lipstick. Now, every year, on everyone's birthday, my family starts the day with a lipstick celebration and feel the love their grandmother brought into their life.

The opposite of a Horcrux, that lipstick is an object imbued with love.

My oldest son, now an adult, happened to be in town for his birthday this year and settled into his old room for the night. Of course, he awoke to an elaborate lipstick panorama of birthday wishes on his mirror. After he left town, I saw that he had wiped his mirror almost clean. All that remained was a single lipstick heart.