Wednesday, September 25, 2013


My mother was a farm wife. The smells of our home gave evidence of her daily labours. She would come in from gathering eggs at the henhouse, visiting bantam chicks in the barn straw, chasing cattle in the pasture, or gathering pungent cucumbers from the garden. The table would host a huge bouquet of peonies or sweet peas. The kitchen would be fragrant with the odours of apple pie, hot coffee, chocolate pudding, spice cake, pickled beets,, steak in the frying pan. At any given moment, Mom smelled like any of these. A few times a week we would go somewhere, she and I. It might be down the road to the monthly meeting of the Cambridge Ladies’ Club, or into town for groceries. She would say, “Wash your face. We’re going soon,” and I’d put on my shoes, wash my face and be ready in a flash. Mom would be ready—after a while. For her, the process of getting ready required two things—an endless amount of time and a mirror. Standing in front of it while I took my shoes off and on, off and on, she would fastidiously apply cold cream, foundation, face powder, lipstick, eyeliner, hair spray and finish off with a few dabs of perfume to the wrist. I never could see the point of mirrors, likely because I couldn’t see anything when I stood before a mirror. I never knew how my mother looked. Somebody once asked me what colour her hair was and I couldn’t dredge up that information. It had never once occurred to me to wonder about it. And so, when I think back to the days of waiting for Mom to finish with the mirror, it is not the way she looked that I recall, but rather the way her time in front of the mirror changed the way she smelled.

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