In Memory of Painted Fingernails

I can see my mom. She’s about the age I am now. She’s sitting in a chair pulled up to a white plastic table. The patio furniture is on a brick-red porch attached to the trailer we rent. I’m about twelve or thirteen, walking home from school, peering over the rock wall that divides the road from the front yard. She’s sitting there holding something tiny between her fingers, lightly brushing it along her fingernails. There’s a cocktail in front of her that she sips on between fingers. She’s done it so much that she barely has to look at her hand as she paints them. She lifts her head, sees me, smiles and waves. As I get closer I can hear the music, she’s playing Journey or Boston or one of those classic rock bands I don’t like.

My mother’s fingernails were always painted. As for me, I don’t wear make-up, I have no idea about fashion, I wear very little jewelry and I don’t get my hair or fingernails done. I don’t even paint them myself, like my mother so often did, but after having this memory play in my mind, I felt compelled to paint my own. As I sat on the floor, tiny brush in hand, I spoke to her. As I painted each finger, I remembered her smiling face, her smiling eyes, her petite frame and the sound of her voice.

Her death has taught me a lot. It’s taught me to never take someone or something for granted. It’s taught me that life is short and should be lived to its fullest and that living life to its fullest is different for each and every person. It’s taught me to never let other’s expectations dictate your existence. Her death has taught me that in order to be truly happy, you must be happy with yourself first.

As I sit here typing, I see my awful paint job staring back at me but I smile because I see my mother in the glitter that sparkles, in the imperfections, in the color that shines and in the hands she once held.

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