My grammy was glam. I don’t have a single memory of her where her hair wasn’t done, her clothes weren’t pressed, she wasn’t wearing lipstick, and her finger nails weren’t painted.
The bedroom of her single wide Florida trailer had a vanity covered in make up and perfume bottles. Her closet had so many clothes, purses, shoes. The back of her door had a life size cardboard cut out of Jean-Claude Van Damme, and the fingers of his hand were bent out so she could hang her silk robe from them. My mom told me that in the 60’s, she would have her “girl” wash and set her hair once a week. Like I said, glam.
We visited regularly when I was younger, but in ’94 we moved pretty far away, and she wasn’t in a position to visit us as much as she wanted to. I was 10 or 11 the last time I saw her, and 16 when she passed away. So I don’t have a lot of recent memories of her. I do remember annual 16 hour drives to Tampa, and how her trailer was a 2 minute walk from a pool. I remember getting $5 in my birthday card, every year without fail. I remember the slow, cigarette smoke and Southern living tone to her voice, her smirky laugh, how funny she was, and I remember her nails. They were a mile long and never seemed to break.
My mom wasn’t so fussed about hair and make up. Probably because she had big beautiful hair, porcelain skin and an adorable face and she never needed make up. On the other hand, I wanted a hair and make up department by the time I was 5. I immediately dove for the clothes section in any store we we went to. I snuck my mom’s mascara and curled my eyelashes with her crimper whenever she wasn’t looking. I kept a stick of fire engine red lipstick on my “vanity” (aka dresser with a mirror on it), and I wore it whenever I could get away with it. Make up and Dress up were my favourite games, and I just knew I’d be a movie star when I grew up.
But I didn’t become a movie star. I grew up to be lazy. “Glam” doesn’t enter my vocabulary (except when I’m wearing all my furs and jewels and my driver takes me to Tiffany’s – but I digress). However so, I still love a trip to the salon more than anything. I still dive for the clothes section of any store I walk into. I watch make up videos on YouTube like it’s a magic act. Getting dressed up to go out is a tiny secret thrill. I like to think that I got this side of me from my grammy – my glam inheritance.
My mom used to tell me that I had Grammy’s nails, and it made me feel lucky. My nails are the one part of my body I’ve never had to care about. They’ve always been long, they’ve always been strong, and they always grow back with the quickness, with no assistance from me. They grow so long and fast, they are a nuisance. My mom always harped on me to keep them trimmed up and shaped, and to never let dirt show. But I didn’t care about painting them. At least not as long as my choices were red and pink – my most hated colours. And my mom NEVER let me leave the house with chipped polish. And as someone with no grace and who hit every surface near me and who also spent 5 days a week in a barn, my nails were ALWAYS chipped. My mom’s glam inheritance is more a prevention of looking like white trash – keep your legs shaved, always brush your hair, never show your bra strap, etc.
Once again, though, I grew up to be lazy. Keeping the paint on my nails became way too much work, I hated wearing dish gloves, and manicures were expensive. So painting my nails became an annual thing, in which I painted them burgundy red (a colour I landed on when I was 22 and haven’t left since), wore it until the last bit of it chipped away, and repeated 12 months later. I can feel my mom shuddering and my grammy rolling over in whatever science program in which her donated body was utilised. My toes have been painted every day since I was in college though – mostly because I can get one pedicure a year and the paint stays where it’s supposed to.
Since I moved to Sydney, though, my nails have shown way more colour. I moved to Sydney with a bottle of burgundy, a bottle of miracle nail grow (both of which I’m 99% sure I “borrowed” from my mom and never gave back”), a nail clipper, and a nail file (another glam inheritence – my grammy and my mom never carried a purse without carrying a nail file). Now, I have enough nail tools and colours to necessitate an entire drawer in the bathroom cupboard. Touching up my nails is a fun part of my Sunday, and it’s weird that I look forward to it now. And weird that I scan the nail polish section whenever I’m at the chemist. I’ve attempted to bribe Joel to come get his nails done – but haven’t succeeded (yet). My nails are now a thing, and that’s ok.
A few weeks ago, I was counting my pennies until pay day while grabbing bread and milk, and I saw the most gorgeous rosey-gold nail polish. It was a $15 all-in-one manicure set from Sallie Hansen and I fell in love. I looked in my basket and did some mental math. I put back a few unnecessary items (flour, beans, vegetables, mince, butter, who needs em) and came home to immediately to do my nails.
As I was letting the colour dry, I thought, this is a colour I never thought I’d like. It’s a colour Grammy would wear. And I had a flash of that basket of nail polish in her fridge. And I thought of how through all the hardship she went through, no matter how poor she got, she always had a basket of nail polish. How she always looked gorgeous. I thought about that as I painted my nails and knew we would have to invent a dinner with whatever we had on board, because I put dinner back so I could have nail polish. I may not have heaps of memories of her, but she clearly gave me more than I ever realised – she gave me glam.