Memaw, Tuna

Therapy With A Side Of Cold Cream

My mother-in-law, Cleo, has owned a cosmetics and clothing business on Main Street in downtown Tuna for more than 25 years. She has enjoyed a fair measure of success for a variety of reasons.

One, she can flat out sell. That woman could sell the devil a Bible and then he would order a few more for gifts. Two, Papa George stands squarely behind her, encouraging her and supporting her every step of the way. Three, she understands that she is not selling clothes and cosmetics, but hope and dreams. And four, the good people of Tuna need some place where they can get therapy and a makeover at the same time.

A bell tied to the front door, clinkles and clankles, announcing the arrival of each customer. She greets them by name. “Helloooow there! Come in!” she calls from behind the counter looking over the top of her rhinestone bifocals. She asks about their children, their grandchildren. She knows them.

Usually the first customer of the day is some old farmer wearing bib overalls. That might seem odd if you were at the mall, but no one in downtown Tuna blinks an eye to see a farmer in a boutique. His wife has sent him in with an empty powder compact that he pulls out of the pocket on the front of his overalls. Cleo knows exactly what to replace it with without even looking at it. His wife has bought the same product in the same shade for the last 25 years.

He pulls up a stool at the makeover counter to rest and chat. He leans on his cane and Cleo leans on the counter to hear the latest. His wife has cancer, but she is hanging in there he says. Cleo listens and offers him a piece of homemade fudge. There’s nothing that George’s fudge won’t make better. Cleo rings up the makeup and walks him to the door. “You hang in there now. We’re a’prayin’ for you,” she says as he makes his way out the door.

Ever so often, some young gal will come in with her head hanging low. She’ll pull up a stool at the cosmetics counter and pour out her woes all over the eye shadow counter. Like a good bartender, Cleo listens. Her husband has left her. He took the dog. Cleo gives her a piece of homemade fudge and pats her arm.

Fifteen minutes later, her woes have been replaced with a new face and a new blouse. When you’re living your life out in a country and western song, a bag of cosmetics and a new blouse will fix most all that ails you. She hugs Cleo as she leaves the store. “Keep your chin up gal!” Cleo calls to her. She has made a customer and she has made a friend.

You can’t get that at the mall.

The entire Tuna series can be found at the Best of Antique Mommy

23 thoughts on “Therapy With A Side Of Cold Cream

  1. Your MIL sounds like a delightful and really special person. How lucky you are! Thanks for sharing a corner of the world I have never known before.

  2. Hi! I am delurking. I have been reading you for quite some time now and decided to come out of hiding. Your MIL sounds like a wonderful person. And, I just love all your Tuna stories. I really enjoy reading your blog, you are a wonderful writer. Thanks!

  3. I, too, am delurking, for the moment at least. Please, please, please don’t stop regaling us with tales from Tuna! The collie was priceless, especially the visual image of him next to the sofa on the porch–love it! …and I already love your mother in law.

  4. These stories should be compiled and sent to a publisher. Have you considered that? They are charming stories and you have a gift for telling them. I am serious, you should send them off.

  5. Indeed, you cannot get that service or care in the mall.

    Hey – I just realized that AD married a woman like his mom. AM, you are both generous and kind in all directions. Maybe you can look forward to having Sean’s future wife giving you the same accolades in his blog.

    You are truly blessed to have some lovely relations in your life.

  6. You need to publish a book of these Tuna stories. They are enrapturing! I want to live in Tuna too! Chocolate, makeup, clothes and a caring heart – what a combination! No wonder she’s been in business for 25 years.

  7. I agree with the other commenters — I LOVE the Tuna stories! You really should publish them.

    And Cleo! Coming from a big city — it’s hard for me to imagine that places like that really do exist. And I’m glad they do.


  8. You know…small Southern towns have their disadvantages, but they also have some real charm and warmth that is hard to find in the bigger towns and cities.

    I hesitate to use the term “heartwarming” because it’s sort of timeworn, but that really was a heartwarming story.

  9. Tuna, Texas? I thought that was just the name of the play and I lived in Texas for 13 years and my Daddy and husband were born and raised in Texas (Dallas and Borger).

    I’m blessed… I have a wonderful MIL, too (who also raised a fab son).

    One of the many blessings to count.

  10. I grew up in a Tuna-like town, and sometimes it makes living here hard–I keep expecting the cashier at Kroger to call me by name. So far I’m only recognizable at McDonald’s. Now that’s something to be proud about!

  11. I used to work in a community like this one…everyone knew everyone and you talked to them about it. Ive been gone from there for almost 2 years. I went back for a funeral….and it was like a reunion…Scott went with me and people hugged him just because….you dont get that anywhere except small places……it makes you feel good….your in laws sound great…count your blessings.

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