Sunday, December 1, 2019

My Shakespearean Grandmother

My parents were pack rats, who kept in our attic not only decades-old Christmas cards and records of paid bills from previous residences, but all the relics of their own pack-rat parents after those died. All this stuff was left for me and my siblings to sort through when my dad passed away ten years ago. We're still sifting. Among the sometimes amazing detritus, I uncovered an ancient theatrical makeup kit from Harlowe & Luther Druggists, 46th and Broadway. It looked a century old, and so it was. When I lifted its lid I found trays bearing boxes of "Finest Theatrical Face Powder," made by Oscar F. Bernner of New York; " "Rexall Theatrical Cold Cream (Prepared Especially for the Profession and General Toilet Purposes by United Drug Co., Boston & St. Louis)," some bright lipsticks and "Rouge fin de theatre" from Paris, and numerous brushes and puffs long-stained with these same paints and powders.

I knew instantly whose treasure this had been. My grandmother Teresa Tiffany, nee Crowley, born on July 28th, 1900 (my own birthday some six decades later), had for the entire time I knew her on this earth bragged about her experiences acting on the New York stage, while my mother discreetly rolled her eyes. "I was in the theatah!," Nana would proclaim, her arm raised high like SNL's Master Thespian,