My Mother’s Lipsticks

By Kim Delmar Cory

It’s been nine years since I lost my mother yet here they remain.

My mother’s two lipstick tubes. Vestiges from her array of lipstick tubes lined up like tiny tin soldiers on her vanity years ago.

Two faded gold lipstick tubes rest on the ledge of my bathroom counter. I move them when I clean. Occasionally I dust them. Always returning them to the exact spot on the ledge as though permanently moving them might diminish their significance.

Every morning and evening as I perform my ablutions, I consider them. Sometimes open them and inhale their divine lipstick fragrance that transports me to another time and place from my childhood.

I don’t recall how I came by them. Perhaps they were discovered in a cosmetic bag or jewelry pouch that found its way to me after her death. All I know is I cannot move them. Or throw them out.

I could never wear these, my mother’s lipsticks from her later years: Tawny and Peony Pink. My mother was blonde and I am not. My daughter happily inherited her blonde hair. That is my mother’s legacy to her.

My mother’s legacy to me is her lipsticks.

As a child I watched my young mother don lipstick and pearls when going out for the evening with my father. She’d brush her thick blonde curls and swipe a mascara brush across her lashes. Saunter through a spritz of Wind Song perfume. Back then her lipstick color choices were more vibrant: Cherries in the Snow or Fire and Ice.

I coveted her lipsticks. She would dab some on my lips, have me blot my mouth onto a tissue to even the color, and I was in heaven. In my mind, I had been transformed into my mother except, unlike my mother; I often had to scrape the reddish waxy substance off my front teeth.

There are other personal items of my mother’s that I hold dear. In one dresser drawer are three lovely neatly folded silk scarves that were hers. She wore them well. I do not. Along with a winter white clutch that I rarely use. We have converted to huge heavy purses that cross over our bodies and hold every cosmetic and digital device made. Elegant hand bags or pocketbooks have disappeared from society like real butter on popcorn.

But it is my mother’s lipsticks that connect me to her. Even the magical Tangee lipstick popular decades ago that adapts from bright orange in the tube to a soft pink color on the wearer’s lips that she bought me when I was 16. She thought it the perfect first lipstick for a young lady.

I twist a faded gold tube of one of my mother’s lipsticks open noticing how smooth and round the once steep waxy angle appears, worn down from daily use. When I was nine years old lipstick smelled to me like a music box sounds: delicate and mystical.

I envision her checking her lipstick in the hallway mirror on her way out the door to make sure it hadn’t smudged, chatting as she did so.

I remember my mother’s vibrant cerulean blue eyes above her Granada red lips, a slight blush of pink kissing her cheeks. How her eyes and lips smiled together. The connection I felt with her as a little girl when I wore her lipstick. They link me with her in a more personal way than anything else of hers.

I don’t outline my lips as my mother did. I don’t blot as she did. I am a devil-may-care perhaps shoddy wearer of lipstick. I realize that wearing lipstick daily as she did is not something I aspire to.

Shame on me.

Yet every morning and evening when I see her lipsticks sitting on their narrow ledge, I smell and see and hear her. Feel the impenetrable bond between mother and daughter.

Her legacy to me.

About this writer

  • Kim Delmar Cory

    Kim Delmar Cory

    Kim Delmar Cory is the author of 5 mid-grade historical novels and a multitude of articles and essays. Her epitaph will read, “You can never have too many twinkle lights.”

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3 Responses to “My Mother’s Lipsticks”

  1. Ellen Niemann says:

    I love this! Gets me thinking of my own Mother’s legacy to me. Thanks, Kim!

  2. Linda O'Connell says:

    Kim I enjoyed your relatable story.

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