Neither of my grandmothers were wealthy women. My one grandmother grew up in the USSR on the border of what we know today as Russia and Ukraine. She fought and struggled her way to Canada with a son born in Germany, and eventually 2 more sons who were born in Canada. She worked tirelessly so her children, my uncles and father, could have a life that didn’t cross into poverty. They asked for little, as they knew she could provide the bare minimum. Growing up, she always knew me as a child and we struggled to some extent to truly understand one another. I saw her as a disciplinarian who would encroach upon my fun, and although I will never know her thoughts I’m sure she thought me immature and childish, we loved each other nonetheless.
At 23 when she was dying I visited her in the hospital and we shared this mutual moment of understanding. She sat in the hospital bed as I braided her hair, as she did to me when I was a young child. I held back tears as she told my father how proud she was of me and how I was a good person and woman; one of the few times she really spoke her thoughts of me. This was the last time we saw one other.
After she died whilst sorting through her things, feeling so uncomfortable going through her life like this, after she had always been so private. I only wanted a few small things of hers: a few lipsticks and compacts; when I was little I would sneak upstairs to her room and look at them, I would hold them in my hand and feel their weight. I would smell the lipsticks, which I realize sounds odd, but if you’ve ever smelled a babas lipstick it’s very distinct. I would open the drawer so quietly, inch by inch, so as not to be caught and I would put them back so carefully hoping she would never find out. So when she passed, these were the things that reminded me of her the most. These little treasures that held such an importance.
These lipsticks and compacts were made by AVON which if you don’t know what AVON is it’s ” a direct selling company in beauty, household, and personal care categories”. If you look at their packaging today it’s plastic, weightless and the design is so simple, yet their prices have increased substantially. I understand that the economy and inflation affect all of this, but I can assure you my grandmother had little money to spend on these beauty extras.
Although I think we as a society hate to admit how much packaging affects our purchasing habits, it does … immensely. I’m left wondering if things weren’t packaged in such a seemingly disposable manner as they are today, would we hold them dearer? Would we purchase 1 instead of 5 similar products, keeping them until we used up the last bits? Would we treasure them the way people of the past treasured their beauty products?