When I was very small, I used to watch her get ready for dates.
She would lean into the mirror and dab on lipstick. My favorite
was a berry burgundy. It made her look exotic, more like
the women on television, less like my mother.

I used to try on her brown boots while she
brushed and fluffed and sprayed and powdered.
They came clear up to my thighs and made a fun clunk-clunk
as I marched up and down our short hallway, my arms held
at my sides like a runner’s, my hands in determined fists.
When she had taken a last satisfied look in the mirror,
she would hold out her hand in request. My fun clunk-clunk
was done. I would shimmy out of the boots and watch her
pull them over her calves, become a tall willow of a woman.

A few minutes later, the doorbell, a kiss on my forehead,
a breeze of our front door opening and shutting, the smell
of her citrus perfume filling our toy-strewn living room.
I read books while I waited for her, wearing the shape of her
berry burgundy lips on my forehead like a badge of honor.

I awoke to her returning in the blackness, my head having
long ago surrendered to the heavy pull of sleep, a book still in
my hand. I could hear her boots in the hall, water running,
the sound of her boots once more. Then her undecorated lips
kissing my smudged forehead, back to being my mother again.

 

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