It was Christmas time when I opened the envelope. Inside was a gift certificate from a local spa called The Right Touch. ” I know you’ve been under a lot of stress. Thought you needed something for yourself.” I was happy to receive such a thoughtful gift and tentatively planned to go after the holiday season. For now there were more gifts to open.
Months went by. I was hesitant to make the appointment for spa day. I was helping my father get my mother to her doctors’ appointments. It took a village to get her anywhere. The act of getting her dressed was time consuming. Moving her from couch to walker to wheelchair was a challenge. Getting her into the car an Olympic feat. The scheduled appointments were enough to handle but then there were the unscheduled events. I would get the call that she was on the floor or couldn’t get out of bed to go to the bathroom. I was basically on-call to assist. My father would say, I didn’t want to bother you or I wasn’t going to call and I would remind him that I was “part of the team” and we would just laugh.
My hesitancy in going to the spa was twofold. First, I didn’t want to be unavailable to my parents if something came up. Second, I didn’t know if I could handle the quiet. I handle stress with activity. As long as I am in motion my energy flows in a predictable and manageable direction. It is in the moments of silence, the stillness of the pause that I feel the emotion stir, the flood gates lift,the memories creep in. Time marched on. My mother passed away in April. May passed by in a whir. June rolled along. I made the appointment.
The day of my facial was a beautiful summery day. I was led to a room with soft music and pleasing aromatherapy. The atmosphere was relaxing but I was afraid I might have an emotional moment. Happily the experience was moving but in a way I had not anticipated. I felt as though my spirit was transported back in time. I was conscious of my presence on the massage table but I felt such a closeness to my mother as I recalled past experiences. When the therapist put facial cream to my forehead and cheeks I was pulled back 50 years. My mother used to put noxema cream in little dollops on my face. I thought I looked like a clown and wanted to keep it that way. My mother would tell me to rub it in and would help me get the thick night cream to penetrate my skin. Noxema will always remind me of her. The therapist asked if she could massage my head. In my mind I was sitting in the bathtub. My mother was washing my hair, scrubbing the shampoo into my scalp. She would kneel by the tub and rinse my hair with a plastic pitcher. It wasn’t until my teenage years that we had a real shower. My mother’s touch was always so nurturing. I thought she was big and strong and beautiful.
I loved my mother’s arms, more specifically her upper arms. She always wore sleeveless tops in the summer. Her arms were bronzed from our summers on the beach. On a hot summer evening I would sit by her side on the couch. I would place my sunburned face against the cool of her arm. Air conditioning is so overrated! The coolness of her arm felt so good. It was exactly the size of my childish face according to my own recollection. My mother’s presence kept me safe,relaxed,nurtured, loved. It occurred to me that not many people touch our faces as adults. To be in such close proximity we must allow ourselves to become vulnerable to another person’s touch and to trust their intent. When that happens we must be open to our own feelings, memories,and the journey that ensues. I thought I was going for a facial on that summer day. Instead I went on a time travel journey to relax with my mother and to put my weary head on her big,cool arm.