Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal


The Anonymous Mother

Nothing conjures up a whiff of the past like the sense of smell.

Aside from destroying thousands of brain cells, a sniff of Tabu perfume takes me back to my eighth grade year. Tabu was dark, heavy and thick, and could strip the membranes from a nose in three seconds flat. My older sisters stashed it away in the bathroom cabinet, right beside the Emeraude, the Arpege and My Sin. No wonder my mother anguished over her daughters, with the lascivious potion they were dabbing behind their ears.

And then the pristine White Shoulders came along, in an apparent attempt to preserve the purity of the '60s girls, but who were they kidding? The delicate Victorian lure of White Shoulders led more teens to Lovers Lane than Tabu ever dreamed of. One whiff of White Shoulders, and my sisters’ drooling dates scooped them up in their arms and whisked them away, like any true knight would do.

No, desire wasn’t truly squelched until the designer collections made their debut. These perfumes consisted of a mere name: Bill Blass, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, and Ralph Lauren. Sure, they smelled OK, and they were certainly trendy, but the passion was not in the bottle. Tabu, be it ever so heavy, would take you there, all the way to desperate searches for hicky-hiding turtlenecks, and sometimes all the way to the delivery room.

I received my early lessons in love from watching behind the scenes. I viewed these clandestine scenes from a chair in my bedroom, where I would stand on tiptoe and stare into the mirror above the mantel in the living room, which was conveniently located in front of the happening place, otherwise known as the couch. It was great stuff, yet sometimes predictable. My oldest sister would sit there with her boyfriend, reeking of Tabu and staring into his pleading eyes. Then they would kiss and tenderly place their hands on each others’ cheeks and ever so slowly but oh so predictably, would slide out of view, into a semi-reclining position on the arm of the couch.

The middle sister, interestingly, would do the same thing as the older sister. Were they genetically programmed to gaze, kiss, touch cheeks and recline? Where was their sense of creativity and adventure? It was obvious they had watched way too many episodes of “All My Children.”

I wanted some real action. Just once, I wanted my mother to dash out of her bedroom in her pink sponge hair curlers and Pond’s cold cream slathered on her face. I wanted my father to lunge out with his hair sticking up like a troll on Brylcreem and say, “Just what are you two doing out here? Is there a sign that says 'orgy' in our living room? And young lady, what’s that blob on your neck? I don’t recall you being born with a pond-shaped birthmark!”

And then my sister would plead, “It was the Tabu, Daddy. We just couldn’t help ourselves. Please don’t be mad at us! We were under the spell!”

And then, in a simple twist of fate, my father could have leaned over to my mother and whispered, “Where the hell does she keep that stuff?”

It could have happened.


The Anonymous Mother has lived in the middle Tennessee area most of her life. Her weekly column, “The Anonymous Mother,” has been published in The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee, since July 2000. In addition to the weekly column, she also writes feature stories for area newspapers, and she will soon complete her first novel.

The Anonymous Mother is actually a normal person, complete with husband, kids and cats. It was on a day back in February 1997 that the idea struck her: I am going to write a column called The Anonymous Mother, and the rest will be history. A friend took a photograph of her new persona, then drew the sketch from it that now appears beside her weekly column.

The sketch seems to provide ample identity in itself, for The Anonymous Mother’s readers often e-mail her, indicating a bond with both her and her writing. Many of them specifically request that she never reveal her true identity, and for now she is honoring that request.

“Anonymity is a big no-no in publishing,” she says, “but somehow this works. The mystique has created a certain appeal that allows for a freer voice through which others can vicariously live. I write about the things people feel but are often unable to express, and this provides much-needed relief for us all.”

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Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012