Shopping in town was an all-day event. Usually it meant Mama and I bought groceries and had lunch out. She would buy me Teenbeat magazine or some record I was dying for and occasionally she would treat me to a new top, shoes, or pair of jeans.
Mama was funny sometimes. She’d get excited and giggly and do something totally out of character for her. This particular day stands out for me. She didn’t complain when I switched the radio station from her country crooners to classic rock nor did she fuss about the wind messing up her hair when I rolled the windows down. We never argued once or rolled our eyes at one another for the entire forty-five minute drive.
We arrived in town slightly before lunch. She pulled up to High’s Ice Cream.
“We’re getting double dips of chocolate ice cream,” Mama said with a mischievous grin across her face.
“Really?” Now Mama likes her chocolate. And boy does she love her some ice cream. And I was so her daughter. I jumped out of the car before she could change her mind. I was thinking it was going to be a great shopping day. Visions of new clothes danced through my head.
I licked my ice cream while Mama tore into hers with her teeth. Brown puddles dribbled down my hands and sopped the tissue around the cone, sticking the paper to the cone. By the time I took the first bite out of my cone Mama was throwing her tissue in the trash can.
“I’m thirsty. What about you?” I nodded. She shoved a five at me and told me to get us some sodas. We took those with us. I assumed we were going to the grocery store or to Kmart. Instead she parked in front of Merle Norman.
“Want to what?”
“Get make overs.” Surely I’d died and gone to heaven. First of all, I wasn’t allowed to even wear makeup until I was sixteen. I used to swipe Mama’s orangey Cover Girl foundation. And then I had to wash it off before she got home. Once I was allowed to wear makeup it was still drugstore stuff not the expensive salon stuff.
The door jingled when I opened it. I was instantly enveloped of the smell of beauty. Everything was shiny. The lighted, mirrored displays invited me to touch them. Mama introduced herself to the woman at the counter. Her makeup was flawless and she was dressed in a tailored dress surely bought from Leggett or Miller and Rhodes. I was thinking we’d never be able to afford anything in the store but heck I was going for the ride anyway.
“You’re right on time. Let me put you two at this table here.” What? We even had appointments? Mama planned this out? I just couldn’t believe it.
I traced the edge of the table while I answered the questions about my skin, cosmetics, and skin care routine. I was a little embarrassed to admit I used plain soap and water, no moisturizer, and cheap makeup. The lady didn’t seem fazed by my answers. She dripped bits of cleansers into little plastic cups and gave us tissues and cotton balls. She instructed us in how to remove and apply makeup. She showed me how to use concealer beneath my foundation to cover my freckles. When we were finished she pushed the mirrors closer to us. I was in love with my glamorous self. I wanted everything. I sighed because I realized it was certainly a dream that was not going to happen. At least, I could be pretty for the day. I hoped we’d see people I knew from school while we were shopping the rest of the day.
The lady lined up the myriad of bottles in front of each of us. Mama and I had different skin types so we couldn’t use the same products. Then she lined up the colors we’d each chosen. I couldn’t even imagine how much all it would cost. Though I didn’t hear the estimate I knew it was more than Mama made in a week.
“We’ll take it all.” What? Where was my mother? Who was this person hanging out in Mama’s body? And where did Mama possibly get the loot for it? Of course, I wasn’t one to question…I smiled all the way to the counter, and hung tightly to my bag all the way to the car.
We ran a few more errands, and Mama asked, “Want a pizza from Barnaby’s?” Duh, it was only my favorite pizza place in the world, and I love me some pizza just as much as Mama. She sent me in with a twenty and instructions to get a large loaded one.
When I got in the car I immediately changed the radio station back to Mama’s country station and I crooned right along with those lovesick singers. Mama and I swayed in unison while she drove. Within minutes she told me to open the box and give her a piece. We chewed and laughed with sweet tangy tomato sauce smearing our pretty pink lips.
Mama said we’d save two slices of pizza for Daddy. When we got to the last two slices she said, “Let’s eat those and we’ll toss the box in the garbage before we get home. I handed her a piece before she had second thoughts. Sure enough she drove to the dump just before we got to our house. I swung my arm high and far and sent that box flying over the heap of trash.
Daddy said he wasn’t hungry, nor did he have any idea of what we’d done that day. Mama and I smiled every time we looked at each other that night.
I stared in the mirror long and hard before washing my makeup off. I sure loved the way I looked. But a beauty queen indeed needs her beauty sleep…and it did take energy to keep secrets, especially if they were with Mama.
The icing on the cake came on Monday at school. The boy I liked told me I looked like a movie star.