Powder with an Extra P(ee)!

My Grandmother prayed as she sifted the tainted contents of the “Gay Powder Puff Design” box of Coty Fragrant Face powder. She needed Divine Intervention to endow the flour sifter from her kitchen with magical properties that would transform this substance back to its original state.  A miracle was required to restore the gossamer lightness and caressing texture to the Coty face powder.  If not perfectly, at least close enough that her oldest sister, Mary, would not suspect that her two young nieces had urinated into the beautifully decorated container!


My mom’s Aunt Mary was the terror of her siblings and extended family. She had quite the temper.  Woe to those who crossed in her path when she was in a mood. Family lore has it that my grandmother had failed to successfully toilet train her almost two year old twin boys.  Aunt Mary decided this was enough and took over the task. Her “rat tailed comb” incited such fear that the boys scrambled to get on the chamber pot. Even if their pants were still up, they peed in the toilet bowl.


Urination is the theme of this tale. For some reason, which to this day my aunt cannot explain, she and my mother took the box of face powder under the bed, squatted over the box and urinated. My mother and her cousin were only 3 months apart in age. My grandmother folded her youngest sister’s child into her brood of five while Evelyn worked at her beauty salon.


This was at the height of the Great Depression. Most of the family lived with their mother, my great grandmother. My aunt’s family being the exception, her father was a well to do business man and her mother’s salon was successful enough to support their more upscale home. But my aunt still was not in school and happily spent her days with her cousins.


A box of Coty Face Powder, purchased at the cosmetics counter at O’Neill’s department store downtown, for one whole dollar, was quite an extravagant luxury. Advertisements claimed this substance to be the preferred choice of the world’s smartest woman. My grandmother certainly counted her older sister as a member of that posh sounding group.  Aunt Mary worked full time and had no children of her own. She pampered her complexion with the porcelain finish provided by Coty’s silky product.


Upon discovering her daughter and niece’s prank, my grandmother was horrified. Whatever possessed these two little girls? They were always getting into trouble. She shook her head to hide her smile; “What one didn’t think of, the other did.”


Clothing was often provided to my grandmother’s children via the generosity of her sister’s thriving beauty shop. My mother and my aunt took their brand new snow pants and draped them over the bedroom lamp to make the room dark enough to play their hiding game. Suddenly the room filled with smoke and the snow pants were smoldering from the heat of the lamp. Much to their embarrassment, the two girls had to wear patched and repaired apparel that winter. Not a happy memory for my grandmother.


More fondly she remembered the time the two girls decided to sample the family dog’s milk! Their golden haired Collie named Lady was a wonderful and patient mother to her pups.  She seemed ambivalent to the little girls cuddling in with her puppies and stealing a swig from her teats.


Mostly grandmother feared her sister’s wrath when she discovered the fancy face powder defiled by the girls. Fortunately the beautiful fluffy puff had escaped their ministrations. She carefully spread out the powder on a linen tea towel to dry. Next she sprayed the mixture with the Eau de Toilet from Mary’s dresser, hoping to mask any unpleasant lingering smell. When the powder was dry again, she carefully pressed the freshly scented talc through her flour sifter. Satisfied with the results she gingerly spooned the contents back into the fancy box decorated with powder puffs, replaced the fluffy applicator and closed the lid.  Whispering a prayer, she placed the powder box back in its place of prominence on her sister’s dresser. Both of the girls knew without my grandmother threatening them, to keep silent about the incident.


My aunt reports that my grandmother’s efforts passed muster. Aunt Mary never knew about the new and improved ingredient added to her facial regime.

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