I wrote this piece last year and haven't posted it for several reasons. I've decided to break it up into parts and share it here in hopes of getting some feedback from my friends, blogmirers, and fellow writers. Have at it (but go gentle on me....)
Six weeks ago my girlfriend and I escaped from our houses for an afternoon pedicure. Because our birthdays are two days apart and we both have two small children, this was our treat to each other. We spent a blissful hour and a half getting our feet washed (I don’t care how clean you are, that’s not a job I want to do for a stranger, but I’m damn glad someone was willing to do it for me), buffed, polished, and massaged. Finally, our toes were painted and each big toenail was expertly adorned with a handpainted orchid. My daughters (3 and 5) were very impressed and promptly requested flowers on their toes, too. Never mind that I can barely stay in the lines when I paint their miniscule toenails, now I have to be able to paint recognizable objects on them, too?
This morning in the shower, I looked at my once shiny, beautiful toes and saw that approximately 60% of the orchid remains on both big toes, but the rest of the polish has gradually been rubbed away. This is the problem with having one’s toes painted, as far as I’m concerned. Not only do I not have time to spend removing the old polish and reapplying new polish to my own toes, the particular tang of the polish remover (you know it – in fact, I’m willing to bet the mere suggestion of it has your nostrils shrinking back) is so vile that I can hardly stand to use it. The beauty of having my toes painted in the winter, of course, is that I am rarely without shoes and can hide the gradual peeling, chipping, and flaking of my nails until the polish is gone. I will admit I glean some small amount of satisfaction at not having used some toxic chemical to remove the paint as well, although if I hadn’t used the toxic polish in the first place I suppose I could have done the planet an even bigger favor.
Summertime poses an altogether different problem since my toes are almost always bare, but I usually get around that by applying lighter hues in the beginning of the summer. That way, when they start to chip, I can simply cover them with a darker color to cover up the chips. By the end of August, I generally have 4-6 coats of ever-darkening polish on my toes that will take a half hour to remove (not to mention a good deal of vigorous rubbing), but at least my toes have looked pretty all summer in sandals.
Three weeks after my birthday pedicure, my husband and I took our children to Argentina for three weeks. We left Seattle on November 4th and arrived in Buenos Aires on a sunny, late-spring day. We gleefully packed shorts, sandals and swimming suits and left behind the gray, rainy days of fall in the Pacific Northwest. We spent our days in the swimming pool, taking boat tours on the lake, playing at the beach, and going for long walks in the forest. My toes looked fantastic for the first week. Every time I caught a glimpse of those gorgeous orchids peeking out of my sandal, I said a quiet, “Happy Birthday!" to myself.
We joined friends in Argentina who had a five year old daughter and were looking forward to watching the girls interact. Candela speaks no English and our girls’ mastery of the Spanish language mainly consists of colors, counting to twenty, and “hola”, but it took only one day for the three of them to devise a way to communicate with each other. One game they invented involved Eve, my oldest daughter, choosing an object and saying to Candela, “Como se dice en Español?” Candela would teach them the name in Spanish and they would teach her how to say it in English. We, the adults, were of course impressed with the cleverness of our offspring and loved listening to them try to pronounce the new words correctly.
This game came about at some cabins in Patagonia where we were staying. A wide gravel path ran between our cabin and the swimming pool. My girls love rocks. Not shiny, polished agates, but regular, garden-variety rocks. They collect rocks at the beach, around our neighborhood, and frequently steal them from landscaping beds and walkways in various places we find ourselves. I borrowed some plastic bowls from the cabin so they could more easily collect their treasures and it was then that Erin held up a rock and asked Candela how to say it in Spanish. I could listen to Candela say “r-r-r-r-rock” all day long. It was completely innocent and natural for her and I had to walk away, lest my laughter offend her.