Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Something Beautiful

When I was a little girl, my grandmother was a glamorous influence on me.

Never mind the hardworking, no-nonsense German farmer's daughter shown here. Two indisputable facts proved to me that she was elegant, refined, and oh, so very feminine.

First, she wore earrings. Every day. Big, flashy, colorful clip-on earrings - not expensive, mind you, but stylish and chic for the times. 

My brothers and I had a fascination with those gorgeous things. While my grandma was seated, we would run around and around her, pausing each time we passed her right or left shoulder to carefully take her nearby earlobe, earring and all, between our little thumb and index finger, and give it a gentle squeeze. Then we would let go, squeal with delight, and run on in a circle around to her other side, taking turns at this game of ours.

Thankfully, my grandpa thought to take a picture of our fantastic ritual. With his Polaroid camera. 

And if more evidence was needed to prove her womanly virtues, my grandmother carried a vanity case. Yep, that's what she always called it - her vanity case. Whenever the folks came to stay a few days at our house, I would run to the car and wait while Grandpa opened the trunk. Then my grandma would reach inside, pull out the small, cream-colored case, and hand it over to me.

Sometimes we would make it into the house before I begged her to open it up. But I can recall once or twice that she flipped open the silver latches right there in the driveway and satisfied my mad desire to look inside.

Cold cream. 
Hand lotion. 
Talcum powder.
Hair spray.
Bobby pins.
Hair combs.
And several pairs of earrings.

I considered these delicately scented, unfamiliar bottles and trinkets to be the essence of ladyhood. My mother, ever practical and frugal, wasted no time or money on such frippery. And I smile now to think of the fascination and awe I had for such basic items of feminine grooming. But oh, how mysterious and exciting they all seemed to me at the time.

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I'm happy to report that when my grandmother passed on, her vanity case came to me. For years, I kept it with my little girls' dress-up clothes, full of play-friendly necklaces, bracelets and scarves. I hoped they would associate the sweet little vanity case with the same ideals of womanly beauty that it imparted to me.

When the time came, our dress-up collection was edited down and stored in the attic for the next generation, and the vanity case was tucked away as well. 

^ But a few months ago, I got to thinking about that sentimental treasure and decided that we had been separated long enough. Once I held it in my hands again, I realized that the blue-papered interior was a bit worse for the wear, and pondered some solutions for returning it to its former glory.

^ Finally, my task is done. I relined the interior with blue flowered paper that not only repeats the original shade, but adds a note of Asian-influenced art, another of my grandmother's exotic interests. The mirror has been reattached in its proper position, and though I'm not exactly sure what I will keep inside, it will certainly be something beautiful. 

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More stories about my grandma:

Collecting Stories

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