I’m cleaning out a drawer in the hall bathroom. This bathroom has seldom been used since our youngest left home, longer ago than I care to recall. Searching in the back of the drawer, I find a pink plastic tube that holds a stick of something that looks like green wax. On a hunch, I remove the clear cap, swivel up the stick, and apply a bit to the heel of my hand. The green stuff turns vivid cherry pink.
My thoughts fly back to the year I was twelve. I spent lots of time that year eyeing Tangee lipstick at the Woolworth’s makeup counter. The junior-sized fake gold tube with a slider bar on the side held a stick of translucent, pale orange waxey goo that was said to turn the perfect color for any woman, based on her body chemistry. A barrage of memories connect with this one: secretly putting Tangee on at school and spending the whole walk home chewing it off, wallets and purses big enough for lipstick, comb, mirror, and all your friends' school pics, the girl’s dressing room/restroom in junior high, nylons and garter belts, “DA” haircuts, Eileen swooning over Elvis, dreams of being kissed.
As the mental slideshow clicks off, I return to the present. There has to be a story here, I think. But what’s the story? Is it the yearning of a coltish young girl to race around the track? Is it the allure of makeup for women across generations? Is it the flavor of the fifties?
I ponder the difference between just writing about Tangee lipstick and how it worked, how I was only allowed to wear it for special dress-up, like Rainbow Girls formal meetings, and how I graduated to more garish colors, and turning the facts into a story. Stories have a beginning, middle and end. They go beyond the facts to make sense of them and breathe life into them. Rather than elaborate, I suggest you click over and read a super story about Tangee lipstick by Amy Kennely. Amy's story is a masterful example of how to turn a couple of facts into a compelling story that shows her personality, her mother's, her friend's, and even that of the cosmetic's salewoman at the dime store.
Maybe my story today will be about how the yearning of that young girl engulfs every area of her budding life, stifled as Amy's was by a mother who wasn't ready for a daughter in lipstick and high heels. Or ... maybe it will be about the way finding one small artifact can open a fire hydrant of memories, and the challenge of finding “the story” within the resulting pool. I'm waiting for my muse Sarabelle to nudge me one direction or another
Write now: pull out your kitchen “junk drawer” or a seldom explored box and find a story in it. Check out more of Amy Kenneley's stories for further inspiration.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal