It has been many years since my daughter asked me to paint her nails. The children and I treated ourselves to professional mani-pedis just before last year’s Christmas vacation. Last December she chose a soft black, and calmly let it grow out over the period of months, her special little hands and feet.
Today: a soft black, again, in a little bottle she brought home.
First: the toes. they are each perfect, little beans. Some day they will be held and treasured by the familiarity of a lover.
Tonight, just me.
We’re in the kitchen and it’s very late and it’s very quiet.
Her toes only take a touch of the brush.
Then: time for her fingers. Her hands are delicate and beautiful. They are always warm, her hands. She holds my hand still; she held my hand in the drugstore today. I hold each finger gently and carefully brush each nail, all my concentration. Nail lacquer is a great mindfulness practice.
“‘No Light’ Gel,” my daughter tells me. “I don’t know much about manicures, but…” [sharp intake of breath] – “the idea doesn’t seem sound.”
I am quiet, thinking of her mind. She started her second year of college today. At fourteen. Her mind is as sharp as any I’ve ever seen. I forget she still needs my help, my nurture and guidance. Adult as she sounds.
Yes but – but in her voice I can hear the same sweetness I heard when she was an infant. I remember when she was only two years old, she could “read” the large Dr. Seuss book The Lorax. She couldn’t really read, understand, but she’d memorized the words and tone of the words when we read to her, and she has always been the most delightful mimic. She would calmly turn the pages and recite the story aloud: “What was the Lorax? And why was it there?” I’d hear her musical but sharpish lisp from her bedrroom while I breastfed her brother.
She says, now, about the nail laquer – which she bought herself while on errands with her grandmother, a thoughtful purchase, “But it was one of the more moderately-priced products on the market.”
I die. I die a hundred times inside my heart.