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Thursday, April 22, 2010

insights: my grandmother's purse

My grandmother, Marie Reine, was 89 when she died and there were two things she needed:

1.) Her large, shiny, red, leather grandma satchel purse which could have held a regulation size Bible, a change of clothes and an 8-track player but which actually  held (for as long as I can remember):
  • Kleenex
  • Butterscotch candy
  • A change purse
  • Her license which seriously should have been taken away when she was in her 70's
  • Pictures of her grandchildren which strangely enough were from when we were really little. (Apparently we weren't as cute when we reached grammar school because she never much cared for the school photos.)
I remember going to the hospital once with her and we had to drive back home because we forgot "the purse." I wish I had that purse now. It's the thing I think of when I think of her.

2.) Her weekly hair appointment which included covering up the grey and a wash and set, which meant the puffy grandma bubble hairdo i.e. Margaret Thatcher. Whether she was under the weather or it was raining and windy, Marie Reine visited her stylist until dementia took away this sweet trait of my grandmother's. I remember going with her to her weekly appointment during summers when I was with her. It seemed funny to me that all the grandmothers who got their hair done at this hairdresser's home all came out with the exact same hairdo that wouldn't blow over in a windstorm.

Which brings me to this post. Through all the trials my grandmother went through, as poor as she and my grandfather were, she always did her hair. I thought of her last week when I looked in the mirror and realized that for the past year since "The Day Bad Things Started to Happen" I really haven't looked in a mirror. My eyebrows are very close to meeting each other. My blonde highlights would now be called stale yellow straw and I've just let it go do its thing. Hair didn't seem very important as my life was going to pot.

Then I heard my grandmother's voice and I could imagine as she was looking down at me from heaven "Good heavens, kid, your hair is in your eyes. You are French. You're hairy. Cut your eyebrows. You look like a hobo. Are you sick? Do you need some money?" as she made that clucking noise and shook her head at me in shame.

It's hard when you're in the midst of just trying to wrap your head around something awful happening in your life to care about your appearance but what choice do you have but to go on? So I made appointments and I was cut, highlighted, waxed and buffed. I looked in the mirror again and could swear that as I looked at myself in the salon mirror that Marie Reine was there just over my right shoulder nodding her sweet bubble-do. I no longer looked like a hobo. I was starting to look like myself again.

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