“Look at her long fingers!” my husband said with pride when the doctor handed him our newborn baby.
“Look at her face!” I said in horror.
Don’t get me wrong, Ava was beautiful from day one, it’s just that those delicate fingers made her face look like it was on the loosing end of a fight with a weed whacker.
I examined her fingers closely and immediately saw the problem. Her fingernails were misshapen and torn. I shuddered. Immediately after giving birth most women bond with their baby by feeding them. I clipped my daughter’s nails.
“Scraggly” nails as I describe them, are my pet peeve. The feeling is equivalent to watching flies feed on the crusted oatmeal in the corner of a baby’s mouth. And it’s not only un-filed nails that send me, but also bitten, flakey or dirty ones. Tonight a crazy man approached my daughter and me at Barnes & Noble. He smelled as if he hadn’t bathed since Woodstock and had tried to disguise the stench with grain alcohol. He had two teeth to his name and his shorts were so tight I could see his pulse. I could forgive all of this. But when he brushed his hair from his face, I zeroed in on his nails, which looked as if he’d tried to hand dredge a septic system. I couldn’t decide if I should run away or sit him down and heat up some paraffin.
I relish the chance to perform a mani/pedi on the needy. Twice a year, I give my mother-in-law a pedicure, which is no small task considering I have to remove the polish I painted 6 months prior. I even took on the feet of my 78-year-old father—with the help of a belt sander (I didn’t know calluses could calcify).
I began painting Ava’s nails as soon as she busted out of the swaddle. I’d sneak into her bedroom at night to apply a fresh coat and turn on the overhead fan to speed the drying process. She’d wake in the morning and stare at her fingers and toes in appreciation, as any girl would.
The polish caused people to notice her hands. “She going to be a pianist,” they’d say. “Or maybe a surgeon.” Secretly, I hoped for nail technician.
She had all the makings early on. At two, she could sit statue still even when I stretched her toes to capacity with oversized separators. She never complained, unless she chipped a nail.
“Mommy!” she’d cry. “My big daddy toe is all scraggly!”
That’s when I knew she was ready.
Last summer I took her to her first spa pedicure. The massage chair shook her little body around like a maraca and I’m not sure she really needed her entire leg pumiced, but she seemed happy. As our toes dried, I looked down at her feet, red from the boiling soak and overzealous slough and asked what she thought.
“Can we do this every day, Mommy?”
I’ve had a lot of proud mommy moments, but none like this.
Like me, I think mani/pedis run in Ava’s blood. Each night during her bath, she washes my feet. She soaps them up and gives me a massage, her long fingers tunneling through my tired toes. It’s mommy heaven. She asks to paint them, but I won’t let her—not until she completes her 2,000 hours as my apprentice.
In typical mommy/daughter fashion, Ava and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many things. She loves pink; I like brown. She loves horses; I’m convinced they are domesticated dinosaurs. But when she “gasps” at another child’s chipped polish and offers my services, I know my little apple hasn’t fallen too far from the tree.