Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tight Lipped

I am five years old standing next to my mother's blonde bureau, leaning on my elbows with my head in my hands.

She takes no notice of me as I stand there and watch the routine in front of the mirror. It's as if I'm not even there.

My mother is dressed in her White Tower Restaurant uniform, ready for work. She wears the uniform like a Marine in his dress uniform. Her outfit is so starched that touching her dress is like touching cardboard. If you run your fingers along the uniform you can hear a scratchy sound. She has an angry look on her face, the same one all the time.

On her bureau is a line of lipstick tubes lined up like my brother's toy soldiers, all in a perfect row saluting her. Their reflection in the mirror makes it seem like there's more tubes than she really has.

She is almost perfectly dressed, except on this day you could see a scorch mark on the otherwise pristine red and white polka dot uniform she had just ironed. I am too scared to tell her. She would only yell at me.

She bends over looking closely in the mirror and outlines her lips with the lipstick tube. It doesn't matter which one she chooses. They are all the same. Fire Engine Red.

She outlines her lips with the lipstick like I trace comic book figures. Always staying in the line, never going outside of the line.
I don't tell her but sometimes the lipstick is so thick, her lips look like a clown's. Sometimes she even leaves for work with lipstick on her teeth. My mother doesn't like to be told things. So I keep silent.

Next, she takes a kleenex out of the box on her bureau and puts the tissue in between her lips and blots her lips by smacking them together. It makes a sound like you would call a puppy. She puts the tissue down on the bureau and I see the outline of her lips. It's like those wax lips at Halloween. Perfect.

I hate this. She can kiss a tissue, but she won't kiss me.

I suppose I could put lipstick on if I really wanted to. God knows I've watched her long enough.
But I never have.


Blogger Carrie Wilson Link said...

Knife to the gut, Suz, so, so heartbreaking her coldness, her need for such order and control, routine, she is a robot.

6:24 PM  
Blogger s@bd said...

I don't know much but here's something I do know: fire-engine red only looks good on a handful of people ...

7:47 PM  
Blogger MY OWN WOMAN said...

Wow, I can't believe that I could watch the whole scene unfold before my eyes. I could feel your despair as you watched her.

8:07 PM  
Blogger kario said...

Whoa, Suze! This is so powerful. I love this continued glance into the woman who was your mother. You have done such a good job of giving us clues about her and the way you were drawn to her again and again, seeking some sort of acknowledgement or love.

Sending you a hug.

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your writing took me into that room with you. I could not breathe. So vivid, so powerful and so sad. The way you weave in the images/themes of the circus and the firehouse throughout your postings is amazing. So heartbreaking, yet crucial. While it is painful to read, I hate when it ends. Looking forward to more of your work. Keep going, you are so on the right path!!!

1:18 AM  
Blogger Michelle O'Neil said...

Ick! I am picturing Joan Crawford in a White Tower uniform.

You're a miracle Suzy.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Jerri said...

Like Michelle says, Suze. You are a miracle. And your writing is breathtaking. This piece is an incredible example of showing, showing, showing.

As the daughter of a Marine, I can tell you that they call those fancy uniforms "dress blues."

9:28 AM  
Blogger dgibbs said...

As always another great post.

What is wrong with her? So cold, heartless, mad, and totally missing the fact that she was so blessed.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

"I hate this. She can kiss a tissue, but she won't kiss me."

The little girl never stops heartbreaking.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Terry Whitaker said...

I don't even know what to say...

10:42 AM  
Blogger Deb said...

My favorite, and the most heartbreaking line is the one Nancy chose. Your longing for her kiss - or any acknowledgement at all - radiates from this page. Your choice to not wear lipstick at all - I don't have words for how sad that is.

So proud of you for telling this story. I know how hard it is.

Much love.

4:15 PM  
Blogger Manic Mother Of Five said...

Sitting here longing to give that little girl a big squidgy cuddle and cover her face in kisses. For every time your mother made you feel like this I am so sorry.

If its any compensation, for every time I read something like this, I love my children a bit more and hug them that bit tighter.

Keep strong x

7:10 AM  
Blogger riversgrace said...

Taking it to a whole new level, Suzy, this is how it feels. These pieces seem to express your level of growth, safety with the experience, and clarity. Vision. It's a gift to share clear vision. And when it's about the details and only the details, it gives us the depth behind the mundane thing and that's very, very powerful.

Lipstick. Fire engine red. Lined like toy soldiers. This speaks volumes. It's a giant road sign and we all know where it points to.

Love your journey, so proud to be on it with you.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written piece. A very sad way to live I suppose. I look forward to reading more.

Crystal xx

4:43 PM  
Blogger Casdok said...

Yes powerful writting indeed, i was there with you. My mum has never kissed me either.
Because I kiss my son as often as possible, he tolerates it now!

10:40 AM  
Blogger Self employed mum said...

It's so sad, you didn't ask for much just a wee kiss and cuddle, a glimmer of affection. It's not natural. You described the room so well. x

4:46 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous writing. You are really playing on a whole new field. I am beyond amazed.

Such a powerful ending. Those last sentences are echoing in my mind. Incredible.

7:32 PM  
Blogger Manic Mother Of Five said...

Suzy, please post again. Every time I come back and see this, my heart goes out to you and I want to know you are ok. Please come back, even if only to tell me I'm a silly twat and you've been out painting the town red (as opposed to thin, mean pursed lips painted red).........

4:11 PM  
Blogger MY OWN WOMAN... said...

Suzy, I re-read your post today and wanted you to know that I'd let you kiss me, followed by a big hug.

You have no idea how kind you are and how your brief comments and thoughtful insights help others.

Thank you for being you.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Mid-lifer said...

Just come across your blog Suzy and how beautifully expressed it is too.
Heartbreaking from your point of view, but perhaps also I feel sorry for her. How awful to be unable to experience the depth of feeling, the intensity of love a mother can have for her child.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Lee Wolfe Blum said...

No are the good student! Wonderful writing...then again your writing is always woderful.

Love the image of her starched polka dot dress!


2:19 PM  
Blogger MY OWN WOMAN... said...

You've been tagged! Nocturnal RN said it's the law and that you have to do it. Write seven things about yourself and then tag 7 others.

6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found you through whitterer on autism. You family and your journey sound familiar.

7:42 PM  

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