My intention was an inexpensive manicure, plain and simple. But the matron at the door of the Lee Nails upsold me. There was a sale on, she pointed out, and I should get my toes done too. I demurred, noting that I was wearing Doc Martens and thick socks guaranteed to destroy the sheen of any new pedicure, but she assured me that they had flip-flops available for customers to walk out in. By this point in the conversation she was already tugging me toward the back of the salon, so I gave in to the inevitable.
Sitting in the leatherette "spa chair" with my feet happily immersed in hot suds, I wondered what sort of blessing would be appropriate for a manicure/pedicure. Blessed are You, Source of All, who allows me to treat myself occasionally to the particular pleasure of making my hands and feet feel sweetly cared-for, and my nails shiny and beautiful? It's an unquestionably frivolous act, but one I enjoy the few times a year I indulge in it, usually (like now) on the eve of a trip to see family.
Then Cindy, the beautician, struck up a conversation. I learned about how she left Vietnam at twelve, a refugee on a wooden boat ("it had a motor," she hastened to add) with her father and sisters. After three years in Hong Kong and the Philippines, they emigrated to the States; a few years after that, they sponsored her mother and baby brother to join them. She went to school in Worcester, and lives in Pittsfield now. Her father, she told me, was a teacher back home, but because of the language barrier, once he came to the States he worked in a factory. He recently retired.
We chattered about our families (we're each one of five children, though she's the second-oldest and I'm the youngest in my clan), parents (we agreed we have a lot to thank our parents for), the cousin's wedding I'll be attending in Arkansas on Sunday. She told me about spending six months in California, and about how she wound up in Pittsfield. Mostly I listened to her story. I came away (wearing, as promised, freebie flip-flops, adorned with plastic flowers) marveling at the way connection and conversation are possible anywhere and everywhere -- if only I'm present enough to see.