I have been in Ann Arbor for the last couple of days doing errands with my mother who resides in an assisted living facility there. Yesterday we shopped for clothes for my mother to wear at my sister and her partner’s wedding celebration this August. She will be escorting them down the aisle, walker and all. (My sister and her partner were married last November in Vermont.) Today I took her to the dentist, her hairdresser, and the manicurist. Of course there were meals and cold glasses of iced tea in between. (It’s actually an amazing sight to see my mother drink her Gruner Veltliner from a large wine glass using a straw.)
My mother said she had never in her entire life (she will be 87 in three weeks) had her nails professionally done. Never. In part this makes total sense because I remember growing up that she chewed her nails so getting them professionally manicured would certainly have been a waste of money. There wouldn’t have been much a manicurist could have done to salvage them. (Also, my mother claims, there was never enough money for that kind of luxury.) I, unfortunately, have carried on in this horrible tradition. Nail biting is a driven behavior. One of those old ruts that need transforming. (I myself first visited a nail salon only a couple of years ago, encouraged and accompanied by a good friend of mine.) But when my mother remarried (when she was 50), she decided to stop that crude habit, said her ring was so beautiful, she wanted to show it off. So she just stopped.
Sitting next to her this afternoon, I was able to see my mother light up at all the focus, care, and attention to detail someone was giving to her hands. She was utterly delighted and pleasantly surprised, especially with the short but effective hand massage. She has already made me make a commitment to take her there so she and I can have our nails done together each time I am able to come in. When I was growing up, the only constructive activities my mother and I participated in together with some level of peace and engagement was folding the laundry and doing puzzles. Now we have found a third activity—getting our nails done.
Old habits cry out for transformation. Let manicures become a consistent metaphor and motivation for change.