The Vanity

“Time to get up son!”

These words were worse than any buzzing alarm clock could ever be.  And God help you if you heard them for the second or third time in one morning.  Because the second or third announcement were magnified!  Teenage boys frigging love their sleep!

Usually after hearing her yell for me to get up, I could hear her stereo playing.  Adding insult to injury… it was a double whammy.  I gave my mom total hell for her choice in music.  From Johnny Mathis to Engelbert Humperdinck.  The latter cracked me up just to say his name.  I never passed an opportunity to say his name when Mom had the 8-track cued to old Engelbert.  Before I could even finish my wisecrack, she would remind me how she kissed him at a show my father took her to in Vegas.


To this day I have a special fondness for Gladys Knight and the Pips and even Barbara Streisand.  I guess repetition pays off eventually.  But it wasn’t until many years later that I truly understood what my mom was going through.  At the time I had no idea the pain she was going through being widowed.


So I would jump out of bed and walk down the hall to shower and start my day.  Passing her bedroom, she would be sitting at her vanity… putting her make-up on.  Usually wearing a green or white fluffy robe.   She would stare intently into a mirror mounted onto the open lid of the classic styled vanity… applying eyeliner or whatever else women do to make there faces for the day.   Music was always playing.  The Today Show on NBC would sometimes be on the Television… muted of course.

Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were

Long before the days of digital music and CDs, there were 8-tracks and vinyl records, and my mom loved music.  Now when I hear these songs, I am overcome with emotion.  I am transformed back to 10, 12 or even 14 years old.

Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were

On the corner of the vanity top would be an ashtray.  The beginning cigarettes of the day would lay in the center.  Almost always there would be one billowing smoke into the air.  These same cigarettes would contribute to her lung cancer and COPD, and eventually her death.

Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?

When I was 13, I made a wooden step stool.  God… I was so proud of it.  Looking at it now, it looks like it missed it’s appointment for the fire pit… but I was proud of it.  I made it for my mom.  I wrote on the underside of it.  I gave it to her when I got home from school.  She placed it under the vanity and would prop her bare feet on it.  For the rest of her life, it always stayed under her vanity or in the bathroom.  I don’t know if she found it extremely comfortable or if she didn’t trust my carpentry skills enough to use it for reaching high items in the kitchen.  Regardless, it’s one of the things that I made sure to keep after she passed.



Later on in life, when I had boys of my own… I would catch myself respectfully imitating her when I had to wake up my boys.  Time to get up son!  I would grin and imagine that they dreaded the sound of me saying that… the same way I use to dread hearing it.

Memories, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

Life is sometimes funny and strange.  Sometimes we miss the oddest of things.  I never knew that I would miss hearing her scream at me in the morning to get up out of bed and get ready for school. Or that I would one day miss seeing her at the vanity, listening to what I referred to as drab depressing music.  But you know what… as annoying and unsettling as that wake-up call was to me then… I’d give my right arm to hear that tomorrow morning.

So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
The way we were..