Ladybug, Ladybug Two, three afternoons a week, I find my mother at the beauty parlor. She uses it like an office, talking on the telephone while her hair is being combed out, her nails painted. She doesn't call it a hairdresser's or a beauty salon, like American mothers. She is Belgian and, with throaty Rs, she says "beauty parlor," the words repeated together so often in our household that they almost become one word. The place doesn't exist anymore. The main hairdresser died of AIDS while my mother was still with him; the other stylist went on to make movies. I have no idea what happened to the soft-spoken women in white nurses' dresses, all those mysterious bottles of potions, the dated equipment, the peach-painted walls. An entire world has vanished. In my mother's address book, though, a treasurebook filled with her musical handwriting, it is still there, impossible to find unless you know to turn to "Beautyparlor"the way you can't get the number for the drugstore, the garage, the carpenter, the curtain store, unless you look under "Pharmacy," "Parking," "Handyman," "Draperies." My mother, speaker of nine languages, has her own way of saying things, which I unconsciously adopt. Later my sister and I will cherish these linguistic oddities, the way we always get an adage just slightly wrongWill wonders never seize!,my mother writes to me my sophomore year in collegeand will jokingly refer to it as European Mother Syndrome. But for now friends tease me because I say "valise" instead of "suitcase," or they try to imitate her French accent when she calls for me or my sister from the other end of the apartment, Valerie! Stephanie! It is always urgent when she calls us, she has to tell us something, wants us to do something right away. She is a woman of the moment. The beauty parlor is called Davir. I can hear my mother say it, her resonant voice bearing down on the "eeer." We don't have to cross the street to get there. It's right on our block, and like our apartment, it, too, is on the second floor, which is low enough for my mother, who has a fear of heights. Walking into the peach enclave, its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Madison Avenue, one is quickly embraced by the pungent blend of hair spray and nail polish remover, laced with an assortment of women's perfumes, the barest trace of men's sweat. Under the spinning chairs, there are mouselike heaps of dead hair on the floor, which are continually swept away. Aside from the hairdressers, there are no men, only women, those who want to become more beautiful and those who are there to help them do so. The clients don't look so attractive for the duration of their visit, all of them in the same regulation pink robe, their hair pasted to their heads with various kinds of foul-smelling substances, their makeup causing them to appear a little sad under the bright lights, like clowns. My mother has to come because she can't do her own hair. She can't do ours either, and tells us from an early age not to be afraid of doing it ourselves. As a result we can do anythingSwedish braids, ballerina buns, high ponytails, our small fingers clicking at high speeds. At home my mother takes baths, not showers, careful not to get her hair wet. She puts oil in the water, and we visit her, washing her back with a soapy wet cloth, dragging it pleasurably over the right angles of her shoulders, the jutting knobs of her hidden spine. Her skin is lustrous, warm to the touch. The water as she leans forward beads off her skin quickly and obediently. Her back is wide and even, browned from years of sun, a gorgeous back. When she wears a backless dress, people take notice. She is a real woman, full of curves, with floating breasts, sunken hips, a tiny waist. I am much narrower on top and bottom, yet my waist will never bSteiker, Valerie is the author of 'Leopard Hat: A Daughter's Story' with ISBN 9780375421013 and ISBN 0375421017.