My mother believed in lotion. All kinds of lotion. Foot lotion, hand lotion, body lotion, elbow lotion, face lotion. Lotion for scrubbing away callouses, hiding wrinkles, minimizing dark circles, keeping out UV rays, softening skin, fading age spots. Pink, white, green, yellow, grainy, smooth, thick, thin, scented, lightly scented, unscented, whipped, churned, glopped, dotted. For my mother, lotion solved just about any form of human deterioration you can think of.
So I suppose it was no surprise when this June, a few weeks before she lost almost all of her ability to communicate and then shortly after died, my mother whispered to me, You have to take the Avon home with you. Your father will just throw it out.
So I did. I took home 3 huge cardboard boxes filled with Avon lotions. And after she died and my father decided to go through a few of her things, we found 2 more huge boxes of lotion.
If I stood on a street corner in Times Square for a week I couldn’t give away all that lotion. I didn’t want to take it all. It seems ludicrous even now, first to have that much lotion for any one person and secondly, for me, a user of CVS brand Lubriderm for chapped winter hands and shaven legs, of all people to take it. But, as the only girl, so it would be.
Some people inherit diamonds, furs, a summer home, a little IBM stock, perhaps an antique vaz or the bone china.
I inherited lotion.
When I took it I thought, I’ll just re-gift it to 500 of my closest friends or donate it to a women’s shelter or sell it on e-bay. But I didn’t. I just left it in the basement with the miss-matched Tupperware and empty shoe boxes and Christmas platters and the board games with missing pieces.
Then, a few weeks ago I came across a random box that hadn’t made it downstairs. I opened it. I pulled out colorful tubes and svelte looking jars and the promise of miracles in 5 easy steps. I found AM Solution and PM Solution, and I thought, hell, I could use an AM solution and a PM solution so I twisted a jar open and scooped out a white thick silky glob and I tried it.
And suddenly, like Jim Carrey in The Mask, I was changed. I felt a softness, but a strength as well. I felt protected, concealed, a little more sophisticated, wiser even.
I felt my mother.
And I hadn’t felt her in ages. I hadn’t dreamt about her or talked about her much or even really believed she was gone most times. But pulling out that box, using her lotion, looking for that AM Solution, brought me to a place of serenity and forgiveness I had yet to experience with regards to my mother. It didn’t last very long. A flash really. But now everyday I wear it. I don’t always think of her when I put it on, but many times I do.
I’ve come to realize my mother’s lotion was her secret weapon against the harsh realities of life. Like Green Lantern’s ring or Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, it helped her overcome insurmountable obstacles everyday. Cooking my father another meal, eking life back into a ragged house plant, haggling a good price for a box of used books at a garage sale, checking on her blood sugar, watching her children leave, forgetting the cruelty in her own mother’s voice, trying to understand her son’s addiction or her daughter’s sexual orientation, going to church and praying for forgiveness, passing up a second helping of bread pudding, paying her QVC bill, smiling, laughing, judging, raising her eyes to the heavens in hope for one more day.
Now I wear the lotion. As though it can ward off Kryptonite or evil or bring my mother back. Once more. To hold me. To let me know, finally, I was loved.