Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Memory Storm

Hey y'all. Your girl here is having what I like to call a memory storm. You know, when you have so much going on in your head that things collide & your brain rescues itself from possible system failure by taking a walk in the rain of pleasant memories. Only the memories aren't nice & organized - they just bounce all over the place, like hail or those hard little raindrops that hurt when they hit you.

Memory storm.

Memories about my mama.

Asofetida - I don't know if that's how it's spelled, but I remember Mama saying it's what her mother used to put on her (Mama's) chest when she had a cold or something. Said it stunk to high heaven & probably only worked because the odor scared the germs away.

Urine Shampoo - Mama told me once how, when they were young, her cousin "Bunky" was the only one in the family with short hair
(do y'all remember "In Living Color" where one of the characters talked about folk & one of her lines was about a woman with short hair: "hair so shawt you can read her thoughts!"?) and someone told her that it would grow if she washed it in her urine. This fool saved her pee in a big old jar & once a week, she'd pour the urine on it. I don't know what that old pee must've smelled like, but Mama says Bunky grew enough hair in a few weeks to snatch up into a rubber band. She might've grown more hair if "Aunt Jack" hadn't made her stop with the pee shampoos.

Bacon Grease Lotion - Mama says that if they ran out of Jergens or Vaseline, she and her cousins would use bacon grease (and you know she meant that big jar of "drippings" that sat on the stove in an old Folgers can) instead. One time, one of her cousins oiled up and headed off to work. She was running late, so she short-cut it through someone's back yard. "Someone" had some dogs. Dogs smelled the bacon grease. Cousin had to pull the Wilma Rudolph out of her soul and book like the wind. I guess she was leaping fences like somebody had bet money on her. (I suppose she made it away from the dogs. Mama never said. We were both laughing too hard for her to finish that story.)

Sooty Beauty - Back in the day (Mama's day), there weren't a lot of readily available cosmetics for "women of color." Most of my mother's family has LOTS of color & they go from black as midnight (some of them with grey eyes that gave me serious nightmares & this is before colored contacts!) to Light as Vanessa Williams. Most fall in the middlin' to dark category. The lighter-complexioned folk could get away with over the counter lipsticks & blushes and all that. My mother and the rest had to work something else out. So what did they do? Mama says that they'd find the darkest lipstick (usually some kind of slut-red shade) and they could find, then mix in some soot. Yep. Soot from the bottom of pots or burnt wood... The soot would darken up the lipstick enough to compliment a sister with deep roots. (Another time, Mama told me that there were some cosmetics for black women. These were sold door-to-door or could be ordered from ads in the back of romance magazines. A long time ago, someone sent me an old copy of a black romance mag & I saw an ad for "Lucky Heart Cosmetics." Somehow, I picture this as one of the places Mama would have found her makeup when she was young.)

"Busting" a part - My mother was extremely honest. If she didn't know you well, but didn't like something about you, she'd be polite about telling you. If she knew you well - or "owned" you as she did her children - she'd skip politeness & just get to the damn point. (Mama's bossiness with a person went up with her level of approval of them. I could always tell a friend of mine was "in" with my mama the minute she went from inviting them to "come on in and have a seat" to telling them "bring your ass on in here and sit down, boy. That couch ain't gone bite your ass." Most guys who made it past being like by Mama were keepers as far as I was concerned.) One time, I thought it would be cute to wear my hair with a part down the very center. Mama didn't think it was cute. When I came out to rescue a date from being scared into incontinency by Mama, she took one look at my head and asked, "Why you got your hair busted down the middle with that part, looking like Sista Tutta?" (I have no idea who "Sista Tutta" is & I didn't ask. I was too busy sliding back into the bathroom to get that part out of my hair. And, no, I didn't "keep" the guy I had the date with. He laughed a little too damned hard at Mama's comments.)

TPV Perfume - (This crossed my mind when I did my "favorite perfume" on the ABC's yesterday.) When I was younger, I wasn't allowed to wear make-up (don't forget my "holiness" background), and perfume was too extravagant. BUT - I knew I had hit a milestone of "getting grown" when Mama let me wear TPV to a school "dance" (aka: a bunch of kids standing against the wall in the gym and pretending not to notice each other while music played). Talcum powder and vanilla extract. Yep. I didn't get to buy "Heaven Sent" (or whatever it was called), but I sure thought I was some hot stuff when I wiped that cotton ball of vanilla across my shoulders and then puffed on some powder. Shoot. Too bad the only boy who got close enough to smell it was the boy handing out the plastic cups at the punchbowl.

Chewing tar - This falls into that category of "country health" stuff. I can't even lay this on my mama's generation & end it there because she passed it down to us. Until I was about fourteen (right around the time I was leaving my small town life), I - and all my cousins, play & real - chewed tar. I don't remember where it came from. My mama and aunt would have it to hand out to us. It was clean little pieces & shiny where it had been broken or cut into bite sizes. We'd gnaw on that tar like dogs on rawhide. Mama always said it was good for the teeth. And I have to say, I always had great teeth - until the Air Force let their dentists practice on all of us.

Wow. Memory storm. Mama on the mind.

Believe it or not, I owe almost all of my current manuscripts (the ideas, the characters, the settings - everything) to these memories. Of course, I guess most writers will say the same thing.

Speaking of writers - be sure to check out the new link on the left. John Baker, out of the UK, writes mysteries & we've exchanged links. (John - I'm SO coveting the cover design on your books - just beautiful! - & I can't wait to read these.)


"Love is either calm or storm/Sometimes you rain gently into my heart/Sometimes you are a blizzard in my soul"
(Free 3/2006)

Yahoo Listing of the artist Kem (nice)

A CSS Tutorial that I seriously need. Gotta fix this dang template problem!