I am not a fan of pedicures. I know most women are and they look forward to it. Instead, I get fidgety and uncomfortable and both dread the event and am anxious for it to end as soon as possible. I do it a few times a year, mostly in summer, when it seems a necessity.
So when my sister, Alice told me how excited she was for us to have a spa day with her I got a tiny bit anxious and wary. A group called “Lump to Laughter” in Wilmington, NC is a kind of “Make a Wish” for women with breast cancer. Alice had gone to some meetings of theirs and placed her wish. It was a bit of an odd one.
For the last few years Alice had shared her disappointment in never having had either of her daughters get married, while she was still well enough to be part of a wedding and in particular, walk them down the aisle in the absence of their late father. She pushed and she prodded almost caring more about there being a wedding than she did about either daughter actually getting married. It became a frequent topic and most of the times we laughed but sometimes it became uncomfortable. “After all,” I’d argue, “No one should enter into marriage lightly and a wedding is only the window dressing of a life long commitment.
Eventually, Alice did give up for the most part and as her disease progressed to an “end stage” level, she accepted that she would not be attending a family wedding. BUT, she still wanted to see her daughters in wedding gowns! Well, apparently she shared this thought with the director of “Lump to Laughter” and the dream workers began their mission.
Alice and her daughters, Katie and Maddie along with me would head to a spa first, where Alice was taken for a facial, makeup and hairdo. I sat in the waiting area and when she emerged, she was glowing and happy. She was ravishing actually and had chatted up the makeup artist and hairdresser as she has done her entire life. How could someone so ill within her body look so healthy on the outside? I was mesmerized looking at my beautiful, still red-haired sister.
Next we were to all have our nails done. When I smelled the noxious odors in the nail salon I felt that they would be awful for Alice to be inhaling, as ill as she was, but would also be bad for us and insisted on masks for each of us. I immediately became the pain-in-the-butt-unpopular-girl, but oh well. I don’t know if in all my years with my sister, we had ever actually had a pedicure together. Whenever I do get a pedicure I am always so intrigued with the sisters and friends and mother/daughter combos who do this together. It is social as well as therapeutic I suppose for me it is, “let’s get this over with.” They laugh and chat and I feel so atypical. So, here it was our pedicure moment together and it was the royal treatment with heated booties, lotions and creams etc. Oddly, the pedicurist was also a tattoo artist who specialized in tattoos for breast reconstruction. Her particular specialty was areolas and nipples. Being a veteran lactation consultant who sees breasts day in and day out this was so interesting to me. But, Alice and I chatted and looked at each other repeatedly wondering or knowing that this may be our first pedicure together but for sure, it would also be our last. I chose darker polish than I usually do at Alice’s suggestion. Frankly at that point, I would have gone along with just about anything in the universe that she’d suggest.
When we were finally done and able to remover our masks, a lunch had been set up for us in the waiting area. Katie and Maddie were done with their manicures and a bit tired of waiting for the next event but we all ate our Panera sandwiches and required bag of chips happily and I was still stunned with gratitude for all of this.
A stretch limo awaited us outside the salon. We were just giddy and giggly about the whole thing and climbed in with the assistance of the handsome young chauffeur. I founds myself dancing in my seat to the loud music he turned on! Our destination was – you guessed it – the bridal shop! And so we arrived and were received with open arms of the staff who were expecting us. Alice was whisked into a dressing room where the very first pick of a burgundy lace gown was perfect. It fit precisely, the color was just right and she was beaming. I on the other hand struggle with these beaded MOB type gowns so though I was trying hard to not be difficult, I imagine I was when I first chose a black gown and then switched to a taupe one, neither of which were flattering. But again, this was for Alice not me and so I would have donned a paper bag if it made her smile. Everything made her smile though. This was her dream.
Katie and Maddie each chose ball gowns initially. They are both tiny girls and these huge dresses had a life and a mind of their own which made us laugh hysterically. It was a very odd experience having the staff cater to us knowing that this was just a staged event that would not end in a purchase, profit, or commission. Maddie then switched to a more form fitting gown. Both of my nieces looked stunning and it was fun however, uncomfortable any of us may have felt. Then, the professional photographer took over and began posing each of us, groups of us, “brides” and mother, etc. He was really serious about this and if anything was amiss he would shout, “Wardrobe! Wardrobe!” as if we were in a production.
The director of Lump to Laughter was in the shop watching and emotional. She hugged each of us. I remained in complete awe that this was happening. But more than that, I studied my sister’s face. I stared into her eyes. I so wanted to know what was there. She looked pleased, somewhat moved, happy. But, I think that the bottom line may have been this. The thrill of going to the bridal shop with one’s daughter is likely the thrill of the whole life event. The big white dress is just a part of what is happening. I imagine (and being the mother of all sons and no daughters this IS just an “imagine”) but that it includes the “oh wow, my daughter is going to be a married woman soon AND doesn’t she look gorgeous in this dress?” So, for Alice this may have been only partly fulfilling since the accessories of the scene were in place but the details and events, were not. I don’t know and I never will but it seemed so. And when the photographer tried to shoot pix with mother and daughter kisses, closed eyes, etc, it got to be too much for Katie and she called a stop to it. I think it was almost becoming embarrassing.
But, all in all it was a successful dream day for Alice in what would turn out to be one of her last days because in about a week, there would be no more days left on this earth. The photos are gorgeous. The limo picked us up and brought us home and though we’ve all pondered on it, written about it, and laughed about it, Alice really never mentioned it again. She took that memory with her so we will never know if it met or soared beyond her expectations. As for me I am deeply grateful to have shared that dream moment with her and her daughters for whatever it meant to her before she left us.
But, my dark red toenail polish is beginning to chip and I keep looking at my toes thinking , “THIS happened, while I was with my sister. HER toenails and mine were painted at the same time.” She and her toenail polish are gone. I am still here. My red toenails are still here. I can’t let the polish chip away completely because then there will be one less thing that we shared left.