May 10 is Mother’s Day in Mexico. Here is a little remembrance of my mom, Agnes. I hope she’s partying in heaven with her sisters.
I remember the smell of my mom’s Estee Lauder perfume. My dad wasn’t the most creative shopper or gift-giver; he always claimed that the lights in the stores hurt his eyes. As I came of age, he would make me go to select his gifts for her. But before that, birthdays and Christmases, he would usually get my mom Estee Lauder soaps, lotion, or colonge. Her purses always smelled strongly of it: cigarettes and Estee Lauder, her signature scent.
My mom wasn’t exactly a hoarder, not like the stuff they show on TV where houses only have tiny paths through stacks of newspaper and trash, but she was definitely a saver. She was a child during the depression and saved everything because you “might need it someday.” My parents moved from Chicago to Oregon when they were in their 70s. I don’t think she sorted through much in the house before moving, just had movers pack everything up. When she moved to Oregon, I found a box of comfrey tea in her cupboard — tea that my grandmother had drunk and that my mom never liked, probably at least 10 years old. Yet it was there and had been moved across the country. All the cupboards and closets were full. A lifetime of accumulation, nice things and junk, shelves and drawers full.
The bathroom storage was particularly stuffed: cottonballs from a store in Chicago that had long been out of business, a lifetime supply of Aquanet hairspray, Cindy Crawford anti-aging lotions from the Home Shopping Network, and lots of worn towels and sheets (because there was no sense using all those brand new ones until the old ones were completely rag-like). And again the smell of Estee Lauder. She had soaps or sachets; towels and sheets were infused with scent.
When my mom died and I had the responsibility to go through her things, I found a fair amout of Estee Lauder colognes and soaps from, I guess, the 60s and 70s, still in their original packaging . Most of them went to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, but I kept a box of small rectangular green soaps. Each was wrapped in cellophane with a small bow, the Estee Lauder name carved into it, and they fit into a classy-looking green and gold box. I used the soaps in my homemade laundry detergent, reminding me of my mom.
When we packed to move to Mexico, there was one soap remaining, its edges finally turning brown. I threw it into the bag with our comforter and pillows.
Henry and Agnes, engaged to be married: