My grandmother Tutu, the one who lived for more than 35 years in my apartment, wore false eyelashes until the day when her aging coordination stopped allowing it. She special-ordered the lashes from a beauty store in Los Angeles that she had discovered in the early 80’s while visiting us in Eagle Rock. For the almost 10 years that we lived down there, my mom would make regular trips there to buy Tutu’s eyelashes and then ship them to her in Philadelphia. After she died, I found a box of more than twenty sets of lashes, dating from before her stroke in 1990.
She had a fake woodgrain formica-topped dressing table that ran the length of her bedroom with a lighted mirror that swiveled, depending on whether you needed a regular view of your face or a magnifed version. Every morning she would sit there and make herself beautiful. Her long, curly, grey hair would go up in a bun with several sprays of Aqua net and a transparent net tucked around it for safe-keeping. She wore Youth Dew or Opium or Must de Cartier and they always smelled wonderful on her. Then came the lashes. She would pour a small amount of black adhesive into a cap, rotate the mirror to the magnification side and carefully place each individual lash with a tweezer. Tweezers never met her specifications and so she was constantly buying new pairs when she was in drug and specialty stores. She often also used the pointy tips of cuticle scissors to delicately separate and flush the lashes, to make them look more authentic.
Monday evening, my mom mentioned to me that she had lost her favorite pair of cuticle scissors. They had been Tutu’s, and still had a couple carefully preserved smudges of her black eyelash glue on their shank. After we got off the phone, I started scavenging the apartment, looking in every drawer and box that still had some of Tutu’s things in them, to see what I could come up with. When all was said and done, I had turned up 11 pairs of small scissors and 17 pairs of tweezers. I picked five of each, making sure to include those that had the telltale signs of eyelash glue and packed them up in a padded envelope.
I felt a reflected sense of satisfaction when I was done, almost as if I was channeling a remnant of my grandmother that was proud to still be able to meet a need for her child. What’s more, her granddaugher (that would be me) is also still set for life in the scissor and tweezer department.