Growing up, everything I knew about beauty I learned from my Grandma. She was also my source of information on becoming a woman, wife, and mother. Because my mother was deceased, I had no one to teach me the basics except Grandma and sometimes my Dad, which as you might expect, was not always on point.
My Grandma was raised on a dirt farm in Kansas. They were very poor and she grew up working hard and only completing the 3rd grade. Martha Margaretha, (her given name) although coming from humble beginnings, always wanted to look her best. It was very important to her.
Grandma was a wonderfully accomplished seamstress and made all of her clothes, even slips, bathrobes, and nightgowns. She also made all of my clothes until I was old enough to sew for myself. She made my Barbies the most fabulous ensembles! I distinctly remember Barbie having a dress out of the same fabric as Grandmas, and even a fully lined coat, complete with bound buttonholes. Barbie never lacked for functional yet stylish outfits and neither did I. Grandma had an eye for pattern, texture, design and she could easily visualize how our dresses would turn out while working tirelessly to make it come together.
Martha had two main rules on beauty: Always wear lipstick and always wear earbobs or ear screws, as she called them. In my Grandma’s bedroom, on her dresser, was a tray that held her cherished personal items. There was a comb, brush and mirror set that I always remember her using, and she had the most fabulous face powder in a box. I think it was Coty Airspun loose face powder or maybe Lady Esther, I’m not sure. But, what I am sure of is the sweet fragrance and the way my Grandma’s face felt so soft when I hugged her or kissed her. She always smelled of this face powder and I think to this day I would know it if I were lucky enough to breathe in that precious scent. The fluffy, round puff sat on top of this all important powder and next to it was her lipstick.
The dresser top was balanced with a simple jewelry box. The kind that opened up and the top folded back revealing a bottom section. Grandma had a large collection of earbobs, necklaces, and broaches, most of which, came from us, for Christmas or birthdays. She also had a small little Cameo that she pinned on for special occasions. I would always ask to look through her jewelry box and try on these simple, yet oh so glamorous pieces. Grandma truly believed in accessories!
With her beautiful silver gray hair, smart clothing, ear screws and lipstick, Martha always looked ‘put together’. No matter how poor you are, you can be clean and neat...a Martha mantra for sure. Everywhere she went, she would be complimented on her neat appearance, even winning Valentine Queen at her nursing home. Grandma lived well into her 101st year on this earth. I remember once while visiting her in ‘the home’, someone gave her a compliment, which made her proud, yet shy. After they left, she turned to me and said, “It’s almost a curse to be so beautiful”, then she laughed and patted my hand.
Yes, Grandma, it is. I know even now, as she sits playing Canasta in heaven, she’s looking all done up…lipstick, ear screws and that wonderful face powder. Most of you that know me, know I usually adhere to Grandma’s two main beauty rules: lipstick and earbobs! Martha was true to herself and lived her life by her own rules, that’s for sure. As CoCo Chanel once said, “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
I think Grandma knew that too.