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Monday
Jan142013

Her Brush

My mother stood in front of her mirror like a flamingo, one foot perched up on her thigh that pressed against the lip of her sink. This was her stance each morning as she 'put on her face'. I'd enter her bedroom, a sweet aroma of Aqua Net hung in the air. Sounds of preparation echoed from her bathroom. It was my father's bathroom too, but only to him. Mothers have a way of marking things. By being mothers. Her bed. Her kitchen. Her hairbrush. One of the most defining elements of my childhood, is my mother's hairbrush. I say is, because it's still around. It's over forty years old. Its yellow. Its handle is gone due to an unfortunate wrestling match with a Bobby Pin which launched it to a tiled floor. It was fractured into two sections for years, the handle barely hanging on by a ligament of plastic. Until one day, it broke completely. Just the hairy belly of a bristled face remained to stroke and tease my mother's hair into its masterpiece.

It was yellow in my childhood. The kind of yellow they discontinued due to marketing tests in the eighties. It could be valuable just for the color. Or museum worthy as an example of pop culture's influence on the hairbrush of the seventies.

I was not to touch the hairbrush. It was a sacred item procured from Queen Tut's womb. It was perfect for teasing my mother's hair and any usage by children to brush the hair of the dog or a doll would result in the loss of its powers. Or worse yet. It might get lost itself. So it sat by her sink. Next to the Aqua Net.

I used to sneak into her bathroom when she was busy. Her teasing comb next to her teasing brush. A thin layer of cosmetic powder on the counter taunted my finger to make a line in it. But I didn't. It was Mom's counter. But I couldn't resist her brush. It was the gateway drug.

I reached for it remembering exactly how it was positioned before I picked it up so she'd never know I was there. My hand nestled around its broken body, the bristles facing up. I tried to stand like her. Her left leg bent and foot perched flatly to the inside of her right thigh. Her toes always flexed and then grabbing gently her snow white skin. I wanted her snow white skin and her pretty painted toes. And her brush. But I had to be a grown-up to have such things. Like having a couch. A bed. Only grown-ups knew how to get those things. A house. A car. A brush.

One day, her brush went missing. It wasn't me. But Mom knew by the remnants of long locks left in its bristles that I was there. Her tone was sharp. Like its bristles.

The hunt began. To find the brush. That I didn't lose. But I was recruited as Suspect A and the brush was lost.

Tears welled in my eyes making the search difficult. Forms of furnishings swept past my trojected mission. I collapsed on the sofa defeated with the frustration of my innocence.

I felt the cushion next to me sink and a body slipped into its fold. An arm wrapped around my shoulders to calm their bobbing swells. It was then I heard the first apology of my life. The first time anyone ever said Im sorry. My mother cupped my cheeks in her hands, looked into my eyes and apologized. She had found her brush. Someplace she had set it down. It wasn't me. She overreacted. I was a good girl.

Throughout my life I have remembered that moment as sacred. It laid a foundation for my life of the concept forgiveness. Because at that moment, in the last few stuttered breaths of a child's cry, I understood what it meant to be human. To feel another's remorse. To accept an apology and go right back to loving them. Completely.

As the years have worn on, the bristles on her brush have depleted, a virtual graveyard of teasing. The yellow has faded to a muted shade of mustard.

I visit her home now with my own children. When I hear they are all busy, in her kitchen, I sneak into her bathroom. And stare at her sink. The Aqua Net is gone, but the rest is the same. A thin layer of dusting on the counter. And her brush. Positioned just so. So when I leave she'll never even know I was there.

 

-----------------------------

 

After reading my blog on "Her Brush", my mother delighted me with an email this morning responding to my story about her most personal item. The following is her reflection on the brush and its history. This is proof that my mother is reading my blog. I just hope she approves.

THE BRUSH

By Maggie Lockridge


Since my daughter has written an ode to my brush I thought I would expand on it's history and my genuine attachment.
 
The yellow brush entered my life at the age of 17, a mere high school Junior.  It arrived via the Avon lady who also brought me Forever Spring, a fragrance I dedicated my earlobes to for over twenty years.  It was then discontinued, but I still had my brush.
 
It had soft bristles and a lovely curved handle.  My hair was thin but I had a multitude of strands.  Brushing my hair with this brush was akin to a scalp massage.  Not too harsh to over-stimulate, not too soft so to not get the job done.  But primarily, it served to gently smooth the outer surface of a French Roll, a style that I wore my hair, an attempt at the Audrey Hepburn look.  Yes, I teased it, caught up in the tradition of the time.  A practice I took up once again in my twilight years.
 
The brush was dropped to a ceramic floor when in my fortys.  Snagged either on a snarl of teased hair or a leftover bobby pin.  The handle went flying.  But that was ok, I still  had “the brush”.  It went with me wherever I went, if it was inadvertently dropped to the back of a drawer, or left in an overnight bag, I panicked.  Where was my brush?
 
In my 50’s it started to shed bristles along with much of my hair.  Maturity was taking its toll,  my very thick, thin hair, was becoming thinner.  But so was my brush, we empathized.  
 
Now in my 70’s I am still dependent on my Brush.  It no longer resembles a brush,  but that doesn’t prevent me from manipulating my grasp so I can still maneuver it over my
sad attempt at a French Roll.
 
This brush truly deserves to be cremated along with my remains, we are inseparable.
Micaela now knows that I also have a miniature treasure chest of Swarvski crystals that must be mixed with those ashes and buried with me in the beautiful rolling hills of Vermont.

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