There is certainly joy in having a baby to cuddle. Poor Lo – we kiss her feet, squeeze her squishy legs, rub her head. She sucks our fingers. And, of course, we change diapers.

How natural this is. This human touch is both important and pleasurable for both parties. (Not always the diapers)

I have been thinking about this because of a different “touching” experience I had last week. As some of you know, my mother has been in decline for some time. “In decline” is a euphemism for advancing dementia. One aspect of this has been her disinterest and perhaps inability to care about or contribute to her own physical upkeep. Mind you, this is a woman who formerly never met a piece of jewelry, animal-print or pink garment she did not rock, sometimes all at once. Mom never left the house without her “face on,” and, as a former hairdresser, spent more time on her hair in a month than I will spend in a lifetime (and that includes my “natural” highlights.) But now, the simplest personal grooming tasks seem beyond her and “dressing up” is frequently a bathrobe, albeit pink or animal print.

Well, last week, my younger sister had the idea that we could give Mom a pedicure. Although agreeing that it was much needed, I had my usual dreads. Our mother is fiercely stubborn, so she would refuse. It would be so unpleasant – except for baby feet, all feet are somewhat icky and the feet of of an elderly, unkempt, obstinate woman would be especially icky. But, not wanting to disappoint my sister, I consented to the plan. We each gathered all the supplies we had: lotions,oils, pumice stones, files, clippers, polishes in an array of colors, even those toe-divider things. We showed up and surprised Mom with a “special project.”

As is often the case, one’s dread outstrips reality. In this case, one’s dread was completely upended. There was a sense of accomplishment from tackling a much-needed task. But, who expected it would also be fun? We laughed, we reminisced, we picked out polish colors. We shared a mutual fantasy of an impossible event – a spa day including Mom, her three daughters, her five granddaughters, her two granddaughters-in-law and her great-granddaughter, Lo. The simple act of washing and massaging feet (though enhanced by a lovely rosemary-mint oil) was powerful. My sister made an apropos biblical reference. At the risk of hyperbole, I believe all three of us shared a transcendent moment.

While Mom has doubtless already forgotten her pedicure, my sister and I will not. It was indeed a “special project” – an unexpected moment of grace delivered and received by simple touch.


The finished product

Thus, we are planning our next surprise – a haircut.

And while Lo’s toenails are still too small for polish and she is, frankly, a little challenged on the hair supply, I can’t help but wish that part of her inheritance will be the rewards and demands of experiencing her large, complex multi-generational family with all the sorrow and joy that it entails. That, and you will note, she already shares her great-grandmother’s love of accessorizing.image




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