Mum will be 92 on the 24th of May and dementia is now a big part of her life. Day to day happenings fade from her mind almost immediately but her early memories are very vivid and she loves looking back and talking about them. Here is one of her more embarrassing memories.
She left school at 14 and went to work at White Signet Sweets Factory at Surry Hills. Her parents were strict and demanded she take her weekly pay packet home unopened, they would give her back the exact money for a weekly train ticket and two shillings for herself – she had to take a cut lunch every day. Mum always wanted to play a musical instrument but her parents were too poor to accommodate her wishes so one day after work she walked into the City to Palings Music Store and bought herself a banjo and paid it off with her two shillings a week.
Six months later my grandparents increased Mum’s allowance. The extra money gave her a bit of confidence. She always wore make up but her workmate Elda only wore a lipstick that Mum always admired and she finally asked for the name. It was called “Michelle Raspberry”. Mum bought her first tube that afternoon and wore it every day from then on.
Mum finished paying for her banjo and then joined the Perc Watson Banjo Club, every Monday she would race home from work have a wash, change her clothes and gobble her dinner, and then don a thick layer of her “Michelle Raspberry” lipstick. She thought it looked better of a night if it was thicker.
She remembers one cute boy who attended the Burwood banjo classes but also started coming to Mum’s Monday night lessons. He sat next to her a couple of times then one night asked if he could see her home. They chatted all the way on the long train ride and then from the station to Mum’s house and at the front gate he asked for a kiss goodnight. Mum agreed as he was quite the gentleman.
As they embraced and his lips touched Mum’s greasy “Michelle Raspberry” lipstick, he started to slither and slide all around her mouth and finally to her chin. He released her and looked at Mum with fear in his eyes, he turned and ran for his train never once looking back.
Mum was confused because she thought he was a good kisser she went inside to the bathroom and looked at the mirror in horror. Her lipstick was everywhere! It looked like she had been cut from cheek to chin and in those days they never had hot water and Mum had to heat the kettle to clean herself up. Pop saw her very red teary face and yelled “I’ll kill him” Nan said. “Calm Down Claude, it was not the boy it was “Michelle Raspberry”. Pop said “I’ll kill her!” Nan explained about the lipstick and Pop said “Bloody women” and went back to bed.
Needless to say the boy never attended any of Mum’s banjo classes again and she never wore “Michelle Raspberry” again.
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