by Cindy James
"The least you could do is comb your hair." My mother eyed me from the passenger seat, her usual disapproval plastered on her manufactured face.
"I did. My hair is fine." I checked in the rear-view mirror, just to be sure. I looked like I always did. Good enough.
She reached over and tucked a few strands behind my right ear, but I pulled away and fluffed it out again. "Don't."
She withdrew her hand and rested it in her pricey paisley-print lap before continuing her scrutiny. "It's sticking out," she complained. "And you're so pretty when you wear makeup. Why don't you?"
In an effort to not start a fight, I resisted an eye roll. "I'm pretty without makeup, Mom. Besides, I did put some on today, just for you."
She leaned over and squinted. "I can't even tell."
"That's the point."
"What's the point? To embarrass your mother?"
"How am I embarrassing you?"
She heaved a sigh. "I just wish other people could see how beautiful you are, like I do."
I stopped the car at the corner and waited for traffic. This was a tired conversation, at forty years old. "If they can't see who I am without makeup and a hairdo, they're not worth knowing."
"Lucky for you your husband doesn't divorce you. Again." She persisted. "You don't need a lot of makeup, but you need more than what you've got on. And let's not forget those shoes . . . ."
I cringed at the words. "Mom, that was twenty years ago. I just wanted to play baseball. You should really let that go.”
"I was so embarrassed. You, in a dress and rotten runners. That is not how I raised you. It will haunt me to my dying day."
There was a stall in the art gallery parking lot near the front door, and I pulled in and shut off the engine. Raising my right foot off the brake pedal, I turned in my seat and pointed at my shoes. "If it makes you feel any better, I wore heels today."
"Thank God," she said, looking down at my feet. “Those are nice.”
We got out of the car, and I opened the back door for my eight-year-old daughter. "Come on out, Tori."
Pushing out of her booster seat, Tori hopped down and smoothed her pretty white dress. "Mom," she whispered, and waved me closer.
"What is it?" I bent down and felt deft little fingers tuck my hair behind my ear.
"It was sticking out," she said.
She planted a quick kiss on my cheek and skipped around to the passenger side of the car, her waist-long blonde hair in a tangled mess down her back.
"How do I look, Grandma?" she asked, reaching for my mother's hand and striking an exaggerated pose.
My mother smiled down at my daughter. "You look beautiful," she said, with a pointed glance at me. "But we should probably fix your hair before we go in."