Red lipstick, the color of blood on a white T-shirt, was my momâ€™s favorite. She rarely wore makeup in general, but lipstick was an exception. Whenever she left the boundaries of the farm sheâ€™d pull the silver tube from her purse and swipe on a layer of waxy red beauty. It was her touchstone to womanliness in a field of manure, animals, and chores.
One day during haying season, Mom came from the barn to put lunch together. The men would be coming from the fields soon, spent and hungry. They expected pyramid-stacked platters of sandwiches as part of the mid-day meal. When she opened the refrigerator she noted the lunchmeat was gone. Zippo. She told me to work on other aspects of the meal while she made a run to the store.
Mom grabbed the car keys and her purse, applied lipstick, and gunned the family station wagon down the dirt road. Small whirlwinds of dust punctuated her haste before settling back to earth.
When she returned, she immediately walked into the bathroom. Holding the white-papered bundles of lunchmeat in her arms, she looked in the mirror. I heard her laughter, stopped stirring the Kool-Aid, and came to see what was going on. She pointed to her mouth and laughed some more.
â€œI was wondering why Eldo kept staring at me,â€ she said. â€œNow I know why.â€
In her rush to get to the store, the store run by Eldo Peterson, she had only applied her blood-red lipstick to the top lip. The effect was, well, stark, and decidedly non-sexy.
It was a small moment, but one we shared with peals of laughter, mom to daughter, for years to come. â€œDo you remember the timeâ€¦â€
Today, May 18th, is Momâ€™s birthday. If cancer hadn’t taken her this year would have been her 82nd. Â Somehow I just bet she is wearing her red lipstick up in heavenâ€¦maybe even on both lips.