Brain Salve

It’s my mom’s 48th birthday this week. She’s excited about this because she thought she was turning 49. Apparently she had wrongly programed the scale in her bathroom which has been telling her she was 48 for the last year. She does feel a bit robbed of 47, however. I rarely see her this optimistic.
Uncharacteristically of both her and I, we go shopping at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. I thumb through racks of clothing I normally only wear when I am working selling clothes to rich people who dress up for lunches. My mom is not one of those people. She picks up a merlot-colored dress with tulle exploding out the bottom and black corset ties running up the back. It is gilded like a Bernini villa and suitable for a wedding in Dubai or the Renaissance Pleasure Faire. This, too, can be yours for $53,000. I am happy at that moment to be relatively poor and in possession of sanity and good taste.
When fantasy land becomes tedious, we move over to Nordstrom which is more our speed, I suppose. It is at The Grove and the narrow island of grass is littered with parents and children and blankets and balloons. “Is having kids really boring?” I ask my mom as I open the door of the air conditioned department store. She tells me it’s actually fun. I hope she’s having fun with me right now. I can think of few things more depressing than taking my child to a faux European outdoor consumption fest, but I’m hoping that it’s more fun the other way around.
It’s busy inside, busier than Neiman’s. I wonder when the recession will be over and when CNN will be talking about something else. Recently, I have found it necessary to follow my diet of NPR with a heap of KIIS FM over-produced vomit pop to mellow my blood pressure. This strangely recalls my first Magnolia Bakery cupcake experience. It was delicious going down but the sugar high left me so nauseous that I was left with an inexplicable craving for grilled chicken and a banana.
The clothes were expectantly uninspiring and overpriced; everything made in China, made in India, rip-offs from real designers or terribly bland originals. This is the world in which I exist. Wholly. Entirely. Depressingly. I watch my mom try a blue skirt on with a bow on the top. It doesn’t look as good as I would like it to. She takes it off. We move on.
She needs some foundation from Lancome. She picks up a small white tube and smears the tan goop all over her face. A gay man at the counter offers to help my mom with her skincare quest, which turns out to be an hour and a half overhaul of toner, peptides, firming and lifting lotions. She comments that the foundation she tried feels really heavy. He tells her the tubes are concealer. My mom does her embarrassed/ amused laugh where she sort of bows from her midsection and clasps her hands behind her back, her face turning red. Sometimes her socially awkward nature is rather adorable.
I sit on a low stool while he tells my mom about restorative night creams and gels that diminish brown spots. He talks about what happens as the skin ages. He compliments my mom on the tightness of her skin above her eyes and cheeks. He reprimands her for going out in the sun unprotected and for rubbing her face too harshly with a washcloth at night.
The entire time we’re at the counter my mom’s eyes relay engagement and sadness. I think maybe she’s a little scared. I take peaks at myself in the mirror next to me, wondering when I’m going to have this conversation with a gay man at the makeup counter of a department store while people buy scented candles and high heeled shoes. Because one day, no matter how hard it is for me to picture my face marred by the effects of gravity and time, this will most definitely happen.
It is not this fact that saddens me; it’s the fact that my mom is getting older and one day when her wrinkles are deep crevices around her mouth and eyes, one day she will be gone entirely. And when I think these thoughts while he dabs full coverage foundation in Bisque Number 1 to camouflage her redness, I want to break out in sobs and tell her she will always look like my mom. But wouldn’t that just be silly…


2 thoughts on “Brain Salve

  1. Lara says:

    I stumbled on to your blog accidentally as I was in search of a photographer who shares your name… no, not the one who takes cheesy portraits who is number one on google search.

    Needless to say, I never found this industrial photographer’s site but your blog is more than a delightful discovery. You are an amazing writer, Miss Bahn, and this post brought me to tears.

    Props to you, from a fellow child of the valley.

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