The Blackberry nail varnish applied for Saturday night's escapades in a Bowery loft - the height of funk - is beginning to chip. I'm quite attached to its tatty suggestiveness and it reminds me of my aunt Marie somehow. Maybe we share similar shaped nail beds and I'm only noticing the fact now. Marie occupied her own space in everything she said and did. The kids she taught at the little school, a five minute drive from her country pile, called her "Blanket Lady" in their innocent interpretation of the multi-layered look she made her own. Texture, colour, cut and detail - her outfit was nothing if it didn't carry a sharp measure of each. Her make-up, hair and nails, each adorned and styled with her own personal curlicue. "Our very own Princess Diana" was one reference made by a neighbour on the day of her funeral. A day as dramatic, technicoloured and complete as any look Marie succeeded in pulling off time and time again.
There was always a nail varnish flaunting its sheen by her kitchen sink or a lipstick in an elegant china sugar bowl sporting a little white lace and crochet cover with beads sewn into the edges. Nooks and crannies abounded with copious gems and wonders to fill the mind's eye, a walk through Marie's house revealed story after story and the mix-matched pictures depicted a life fully immersed.
Two things, Marie used to tell us as kids bouncing along in the back-seat of her big white Jeep, you needed as a grown-up on a regular basis and they were your daily dose of sex and your daily dose of Elton John. In that order I might add. I have never questioned her sound thinking, even as a ten year old I took those words for gold. Whether I fully comprehended what and who she was talking about is another story.
She did crazy things like insist on pulling up the wild flowers that would grow at the bottom of her drive and signify the start of Autumn if she so much as caught a glimpse of one before the school-term had commenced or would repeat to parents what the kids had said in class in such a clever way that left no doubt in their minds that she was well aware of the fact they had been talking about her in their homes over their Bangers and Mash. "Shabby Shauna", "Gorgeous John", "Dom the Prom"...everyone got a personal moniker. Her savvy wit served to compliment in equal measures to a cutting nerve that could leave you reeling. She was unapologetically unique, a lone wolf parading through a throng of bland.
I came down her stairs one morning which led into her big welcoming Country-Living-to-a-tee style kitchen to find her pottering around her prized possession, the green Rayburn, and out of nowhere she said: "I always thought I'd be famous." True, she may not have burned across the Hollywood hills and highways blazing in a streak of glory or set the scene for literary bigwigs to chew on. But I, however, will never inhale the luxe-scent of Opium without sensing her standing beside me; I'll never wear a pair of leather driving gloves and not acknowledge her nod of approval from beyond nor will I ever ever undervalue the power of her "daily dose" words to live by. Knockbrack, Donegal, Carrig Donn knitwear, we all shine a little less bright these days having lost our major beacon to the big time cosmos and eternity. Along with my berry coloured nail varnish I like to apply grey eye-liner - the thicker and smudgier the more I know she'll smile down on me - to remind me of her. Sometimes I even do so on a daily basis.