I sat snuggled into my window seat, high above, somewhere between Salt Lake City and Dallas. The mountains, snow-covered, gradually flattened. My plane taxied from the gate just after 6 a.m. and I watched wide-eyed as the sky slowly lit pink. I thought about my mama.
Her gravestone was supposed to be delivered and placed that day, but the weather in Dallas was horrible. It had been raining for weeks. So, we’d have to wait.
I wondered what it would feel like to be in her house again. It had been 8 months since she passed. My bet was that all her things were still there, as my dad is not one to be proactive about ridding the house of clutter.
He shouldn’t be living there, alone, with his declining mobility. At least we’ve convinced him to use a cane now. He resists change, any and all of it. He shuffles through his days, slowly, and we try to convince him about what his future should look like. Baby steps for all of us.
My thoughts kept focusing on my mother’s bathroom vanity.
Was everything still there? I smiled. She prided herself on her presentation, her image, always looking her best. Her makeup vanity is the first thing you see when you enter their master bathroom. Daddy lives his life walking past it day after day. I wonder again if he had thought to pack it up. Why haven’t I asked him about it?
And then there’s her closet. Daddy was adamant about nobody taking any of her things when we were all there for the funeral. We’d see if that mindset had changed.
My plane bumped along, making writing difficult. I’ve never understood why there are bumps on a perfectly clear day. I’m not a scientist or aerospace engineer, equipped to understand such things. Writing words on a page is my specialty, my ‘super suit’.
So when is anyone ready to remove evidence of a life from your home? When is it healthy? A marriage that spans 63 years is a lifetime – with a lot of stuff. All of us kids shiver at the enormity of wading through their accumulated ‘treasures’, and the coming (nearly impossible) hurdles of dealing with it all.
Mama had a lot of ‘pretties’, and a lot of makeup. The older she got the more she talked about how long it took for her to sit at her vanity and ‘repair’ everything before she ran errands outside the house. Those trips got gradually fewer the last couple of years.
When I was about 13 and was allowed, finally, to wear some makeup, she made an appointment for us at Merle Norman so that I could learn how to put it on ‘properly’. I’ve never been an owner of many lipsticks – maybe 2 or 3. The one I currently use stays in my purse to be applied before I enter wherever I may be going. My lipstick doesn’t tend to be for home use unless guests are expected. In my mind, what’s the point?
In my young married years, when I was home with ‘littles’ all day, mama would gently remind me, occasionally, to fix myself a little for my husband’s arrival at dinnertime. Good advice from a lovely generation. The snapshots of her through the years almost always showed a fresh face, complete with lipstick.
Mama’s generation of women was aware of and used their womanly wiles. She talked often about the power that we as women share. That power was to be used for the good.
I was taught that we as women are strong and smart and can think through situations that may not be safe or healthy.
Mama embraced her womanhood as a gift from her Creator – and understood how we as His should be gifting the world with our own talents and abilities. I was surrounded by her friends who also embodied this quiet strength.
Her bathroom vanity was the place she clothed herself in her ‘super suit’. Just like The Incredibles character Lucius Best, or Frozone, who couldn’t find his (now retired) super suit. He needed to wear it to help Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl fight a new round of crime. He hollers to his wife, “Where is my super suit?” Only with his southern drawl, it comes out ‘soopa suit’. This one line has become a common one in my house since my kiddos first saw The Incredibles.
Frozone’s super suit changed him into a hero, a superhero. Without it he was ordinary. as were the other Incredibles.
What is your super suit?
My mother’s bathroom vanity was where she daily found her super suit. Her image was important. After her years of high school counseling, she made a daring career change to that of ‘Image Consultant’. She taught classes on how to present yourself with both wardrobe and makeup. Always looking her best ‘put together’ self, she lived what she taught.
Her super suit was simply what made her feel like a superhero. For her, it was showing up in her best ‘put together’ self. Ah, but she knew it was what you DID while wearing your own super suit that actually made you super.
When my sister and sisters-in-law viewed her in the funeral home after they had prepared her body, we knew instantly that we needed to redo a lot of it. How she looked was important. So we changed the makeup colors and hairstyle to what she would have wanted.
Her image mattered, yet she wasn’t vain.
Teaching my three girls how to walk the fine line between self-care and vanity is a challenging task. They are being raised in an age of selfies and constant ‘me-isms’, and their mama cringes at seeing their peers constantly posting photos of themselves. Ugh.
To be clear, donning a ‘super suit’ is not about glorifying self. Instead, it is about using your own gifts for the good of others.
I want my girls to know that we as women are defined not by what happens TO US, but instead by our own actions – what WE DO. And, perhaps most important, we are empowered by Him who holds us. The gift of womanhood is just that, a precious gift from the Creator above.
My own super suit may not be put on with a tube of lipstick. Mine may be found in the words that I scribble, or the moments I photograph. My daughters’ super suits may be found in a prized saddle or in a pair of technical pants for my new EMT. It may be found in a guitar or cello for my youngest.
Wearing your own super suit, ultimately, is about figuring out your own superpower, your own gift to the world.
It may take some time for my teen girls to find their own. But we’re getting closer to finding it.
Moving past the death of my mother and greatest cheerleader brings me, time and again, to her words and advice. She looked past our inadequacies to uncover each of our talents, our skills, and interests. Her ultimate goal in life was for all of us, her kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, to find our passions.
True fulfillment in a career or life, my mother understood, stems from our innate callings, vastly different as they may be from anyone else’s. Living out this calling, His Calling, in the words of my mama, leads to finding our own individual superpower strength.
Have you found YOUR super suit?