Zaviera and I sit side by side, our nails drying beneath thin, fluorescent lights. We’ve been listening to a gossiping group of older women a row over from us,
their pale hands outstretched,
I smile at this spectrum of glossy scarlet to violent pink.
I think about the strength of these survivors as they roll their eyes, purse their lips and gather powers to move from dissecting other women to discussing the knowledge of protocol in relationship to Queen Elizabeth.
These women are lined up in a row
soft and large,
clothes clean in a way mine will never, ever be.
I smile a little smile in my mind to them.
I bless them their shiny talons and sharp tongues.
It takes a certain kind to survive in this world as a female.
The last time Zaviera and I made an attempt at this ‘taking care of our hooves’ thing, this way of exploring what female rituals we want to claim and define, we were seeking comfort.
Our family had been going through a series of ‘little earthquakes’ around a young couple we’d taken a chance on:
Knocks on our doors at odd hours
…and then a final act of violence that enrolled the concern and welfare of our neighborhood.
Our morning was taken up by police, neighbors bonding together to help, and our family tending to the young woman as she told her stories for the police. Options were discussed, plans put in place, our trust betrayed, hard decisions were made.
Our house stopped being safe for Zaviera after that morning.
After a few days, she decided she wanted to do something that the young woman had promised to do with her. Zaviera wanted to do it with me to claim back her good feelings.
So, we went to get her first pedicure.
She wasn’t ready that first visit. She saw all of the women sitting as other women worked industriously over the fingers and toes of these strangers.
She grabbed my hand and whispered, “I’m just going to watch this time.”
She sat on my lap and observed as my cuticles were tended to, my skin scraped, as
I cracked jokes with those around me.
Made a connection with a woman covered in ink.
Turned out we had an artist in common.
My daughter was growing a new heart that day. We still are. It felt like a sign of times to come.
I am learning that we are a heart broken family in a golden-veined, light-shining through the cracks kind of way.
On that day and the days to follow, my children have watched our family process further community issues with our extended tribe.
They have scolded me and continue to scold me:
You are too trusting, mommy
You make friends wherever you go
You shouldn’t be so kind to people
I tell them that they are right, there are parts of my character and nature that are vulnerable to being taken advantage of: I have blind spots and broken parts
It has been a hard month. This super moon was not super, it was a deep shaking of everything. It was earthquakes and heartbreak and political rupture.
But here we are, Zaviera and me, taking our own strange little steps toward recovery and integration.
I’ve already grown protective of the young woman working on my nails.
Her name tag says ‘Cake’ and I can feel how tired she is, how ready she is for some energy, engagement, so I ask her questions about the day ahead. She tells me she needs to work nine hours.
I ask if she is studying while working or just working. She tells me she is just working.
When she isn’t working she only wants to watch movies and sleep.
She speaks very little English.
She stops, cracks her knuckles, says something I don’t understand.
I look around to see if anyone other than me is listening.
Another woman spontaneously manifests
she was that slight and silent.
There is an exchange of money and an order for coffee
and she is gone.
I laugh understanding the language of coffee.
Our nails are done now.
Cake tells us we will need to stay still and let things dry.
She disappears, returning with two nail polishes in her hand and the steadfastness of spirit that comes from a good cup of coffee.
She says to Zaviera, “I’m going to give you a flower. Which finger you want?”
I watch this negotiation between Cake and Zaviera and I start to cry. I can’t help it, watching this woman taking care of my daughter, giving her everything she needed today even though she clearly needed so many flowers painted on her own fingers.
After Cake is done and we are left with the whir of fans and the smell of polish, Zaviera catches my eye and laughs, “Why are you crying?”
I wipe away at my tears, agreeing at the silliness of me, and explain how those flowers are proof of the kindness and goodness in this world and that can’t be underestimated.
Zaviera lets me have my moment and then says, “Yeah, plus, did you catch her name?”
Me, “Yup. Cake. So cool.”
We give one another the thumbs up.
Zaviera raises her eyebrows and seals the deal.
“We need to this again. This is good.”
We let our nails dry.
I worried about how to give this gift back to Cake, to tenfold bless her but I didn’t need to worry.
God is in the details, the small acts and the great intention we invest in them.
Two flowers for a little girl.
Gold filling in the cracks of my mama heart.
A smile to pay for the best of it all.