“Want to stay for a coffee,” asked my friend Vandie this morning after she had lead my through a long-overdue workout in her basement studio.
“I won’t have a coffee, Vandie,” I stated, “but I would love a visit.”
Little did I know that one thing would lead to another and I would be receiving some good old-fashioned pampering that morning. Not only does Vandie take care of my fitness, but she also takes care of my skin! Vandie is a registered esthetician. As such, she encourages me to use good face creams, good cleansing routines, and to make time for myself. Yet another reason my mother loved Vandie. No matter how hard my mother tried to encourage me to take care of myself, I did not listen. I was way too stubborn, proud, and busy to give her advise a second thought.
My mother sold Beauty Councellor beauty products for as long as I can remember. She did well with them – no wonder, as she was one of the most beautiful women I remember. She was a true “Russian Beauty”. Everyone commented on her appearance, always so well put together, always had on her make-up (or at least her lipstick and eyebrows), always her pearls. Honestly, in her 80’s my mother was stunning with her white, white hair and gorgeous high cheek bones. She had her hair “done” once a week by a hair-dresser and a permanent at least once every two months. It was her routine. She made her appearance count.
She had tried, desperately, to pass that attention to self to me. I had all my make-up, creams, and lotions I needed at my disposal for my whole life. I thought all the make-up in the world would not make me look like my mother. What was the point. In fact, not only did I not look like her – I looked much more similar to my father. And even more so when I lost my hair from chemo. I was his spitting image. He was a handsome man too – but, well, what girl wants to look like her father? “Stacey,” people would say to me. “Your mother is so beautiful.” And without skipping a beat, they would add, “And you look just like your Dad!” No make-up for this gal. No skin cream. I was destined to live my life without my mother’s cheek-bones.
It wasn’t until Vandie instructed me to sink my hands into the warm paraffin wax bath (after a good cleansing) that I really began to appreciate having stuck around for a chat. The chats with Vandie are always good. There are never any false pretenses to our dialogues. We know who we are and there is no place to hide in our conversations anyhow. After all, how much sweat have we shared while we pushed ourselves to achieve good physical fitness. But, man – that paraffin! Sinking my hands into that warm, waxy bath was like being transported someone ethereal. I had no body. I had was all hands. And all my focus was on the warmth and softness which enveloped them.
Vandie was giving a facial to another friend at the time of my out of body experience, so eventually, I paid attention once again to my surroundings. The feeling came back to my brain and I simply sat watching Vandie perform her magic on the “other woman”. I was a spectator. I didn’t feel the need to participate in any dialogue. I focused on my hands. While they were chatting, I was healing. I was healing from the inside out. I was pampered. Oh – what a delight. Oh – what a joy. I sat. I didn’t have a schedule. I didn’t think about dinner. I didn’t … well… I didn’t know even why I didn’t just stay there forever? It was warm. It was calm. There was an aura in the room which glowed self-care. The words I watched being exchanged were kind, gentle. There were bouts of laughter, but healing laughter. Vandie’s hands soothed the “other woman’s” skin. I melted just watching. It was as though what was happening was also happening to me. We were one. I wondered what else was in that paraffin? But it had simply been paraffin. So – what was it that was causing my euphoria? Vandie was caring for us. It was like a mother’s care. It was what my mother would have offered me. I was swept away to my youth when my mother cared for me. She cared for my well-being. She cooked for me, she cleaned for me, she advocated for me. She was my paraffin. She enveloped me in warmth and offered herself as the salve to my soul. Her words, her actions, her love was with me – in that room – while I sat on the sofa – watching Vandie and the “other woman” – with my hands wrapped in gauze – healing – from the outside in.
When my hands came out of that gauze, they were perfect. At least, in my eyes. My dry-cracked skin was soft. The wrinkled old knuckles were smooth and the colour was a healthy pink. Winter’s curse had been, at least temporarily, reversed. It was there and then that I made a commitment to myself that I would, finally, take care of my skin.
“Here is some face cream, Stacey. Use it!” instructed Vandie/ Mom.
And for the first time, I think in my entire life, I listened. I took the cream. I filed it where I knew I would find it and as soon as I got home, I applied it. “Mom would have been so proud,” I thought. Beauty is more than skin deep – but to have someone pamper that same skin is almost as good as the sorting out you get by seeing a therapist. It is restorative, it is healing, it is re-juvenating.
I won’t soon forget this morning, or the feeling I had walking away from Vandie’s house. “Maybe I should have tried this sooner?” I thought to myself as I drove away placing my hands smack dab in the middle of the steering wheel where I could admire them glisten in the sun. “Maybe I should use gloves when I clean.”
Yes. My mother would have been pleased.