Blogger Widgets

Nine Perfect Nails

Eighty-seven years ago today Dorothy May Barbour was born. In her mid-50s she became my Grandma Norris. She's been gone for almost five years, but I always think of her around this time. We weren't very close, but she was one of the women who helped shape my ideas about makeup and beauty. She was pin-up stunning when she was young and in her mid-70s still looked just out of her 60s. Never left the house without makeup. Always had her nails painted.

I feel a little bad that this is the only photo of her I could find... because it's really more of a photo of me.  I joke that even at the tender age of three months I was amazed by the ugliness of her sofa.  Gold polish on her nails for xmas.  You can see a hint of it.  Frosted hair, silver chain....this is really how I remember her.  She doted on me for the few weeks I'd see her each year and I loved her for it, in that greedy piggy way kids love anyone who spoils them.

Years before I was born, my mother stopped wearing makeup for anything but the biggest occasions, so my grandmothers were my only real exposure to it.  They were both of the generation that couldn't leave the house without, which is what caused my mother's lasting rebellion against it.  Grandma, was prim and dorkily conservative, but Grandma Norris loved shimmer and frost.  She was the flashier, bolder, and yes...speak ill of the dead...tackier of the two.  In early years she was the icon of glamour in my eyes.  She was fussy about how everything looked, not just wiping smudges off my face, but tidying my hair, straightening my I wiggled to get away.

I'll never forget how grown up I felt when she gave me a bunch of her old makeup.  I was in middle school and only allowed to wear lip stuff out of the house, but I played with this new treasure trove at home.  My little sister and I both looked absurd smeared with smoky brown eye shadow, but it was so much fun.

The title of this post seems a bit odd if you didn't know her.  Her nails were always painted.  She'd redo them every couple of days, sitting in her chair at the kitchen table.  She had all the stuff right there in a neat little basket and I liked watching her.  She had the full range of neutrals and pale, beige, pearl, gold, taupe, nude, tan.  In some ways it was a brave thing for her to draw attention to her nails.  She'd lost her left pinkie finger in her teens.  The whole thing, down to the knuckle.  She used to tell her childhood hardship story (didn't all grandparents have one?), a bit harder than many.  She'd been ordered by her father to leave school at 14 and get a job.  I think she worked in a factory making bicycle parts, but I'm not sure.  Might have been bottles.  It's weird how the more you hear some stories, the less you remember them.  It was a factory, whatever it made, and she lost her finger when her hand got stuck in some machinery.  When I look back at visits with her, I always think of those nine perfect nails...


  1. I'm just happening to read this post on Mother's Day. This is a lovely tribute, Amanda. I love that she was confident enough to polish her nine remaining nails even without that pinkie! Someone to admire, for sure.


We love to hear from you! Your feedback, comments, compliments, questions, etc are always appreciated...especially the compliments! ;)

Please don't post a link to your own blog *unless* you're linking to a related post (same/similar technique, theme, shade, etc). If you comment using your Google account, your blogspot blog can easily be found in your profile. If you want us to check out your blog, please contact us through email or on twitter.

Spam, harassing comments, and those blatantly promoting blogs or websites will be deleted.