These days I get monthly pedicures. As a fairly straightforward Yankee type who buys clothes when necessary, not for entertainment, and the care of whose feet is a do it yourself operation, pedicures have not been a regular part of my adult life. However, now that I am in my seventies, orthopedic limitations prevent reaching my toes. To my chagrin, no matter how hard I try or how many contorted positions I experiment with, I can no longer fold my body tightly enough, bringing shoulders to knees, and stretch my arms far enough, to reach my toes, file and paint the nails.
Rose, a good pedicurist, works in a nearby salon. She has become one of the small army of helpers who now ease my way in life. Rose is a nice, young woman with brains and ambition. She’s on her way somewhere, and I enjoy talking with her about her visions for the future. I hope she beats the odds and makes it.
I have come to enjoy the routines of the pedicure. My feet, released from the confines of socks and shoes, shout with the freedom to stretch and wriggle. Jeans rolled above knees; I slip my feet into warm, blue water and sink deeply into a spacious leather chair with massage capabilities. Lying back with tea in hand, my feet and legs enjoy a long, relaxing soak; dry winter skin is sloughed off; and after the cutting and filing but before the painting, Rose gives a lengthy foot massage with delicious oils and lotions. I have learned to relax into the warmth and caress of the pedicure, quiet my mind, and drift off into clouds of indistinct sound and scent.
The last time I went to the salon, I took along a copy of Strad, a British magazine for the players and makers of bowed, stringed instruments. Reading articles about such things as Stradivari’s early instruments, and summer and winter rosins, is part of my research in preparation for writing a story about violin making. Total immersion in an elegant world. Carrying the magazine around to read while waiting for the dentist or the subway, people ask what it is, what it is about. It’s not a commonly known magazine in this country.
On this particular day, as my pedicure was ending with the painting of purple on my toenails, a rare male cautiously peeked around the corner, asking if this was the place for pedicures. He explained that he had never had a pedicure before but his wife had given him a gift certificate, so here he was. He was Harvard Square casual; slender, probably in his early forties, dark hair shot with grey, wearing rumpled jeans, a dark shirt, and very worn running shoes. A uniform that masks all social and intellectual distinctions. “I don’t know what to expect,” he said, “or what to do.” Rose invited him in saying, “Just relax and put your feet in the water.” He apologized for the state of his feet and repeated that he had never had a pedicure before. Rose reassured, saying, “That’s fine. I’ve seen everything.” As I took a look at the situation out of the corner of my eye, I could appreciate why his wife thought to give him that gift certificate.
As I picked up my stuff to go, he asked if my Strad magazine belonged to the shop. He started talking about the woman pictured on the front cover, Rachel Podger, a British baroque violinist who had won the 2015 Bach Prize awarded by the Royal Academy of Music in London. He has her Bach partitas, he said. “I am in the position to make recommendations to the Boston Celebrity Series and would like to get her to perform there.” Scrambling to turn my brain back on, I emerged from my hazy clouds enough to mention my writing project. “Are there good luthiers in Boston?” he asked, “There’s one in New York.” I asked if he was referring to Sam Zygmuntowicz, arguably the best luthier in the United States, who has a workshop in Brooklyn and has made violins for Isaac Stern and several members of the Emerson Quartet. I told him of one or two luthiers in the Boston area who were very good, if not quite of Sam’s renown. Hoping to shut down this conversation and return to my reverie, but interested in more talk another time, I gave him my email address, vowing to meet for coffee sometime.
As I left, I was ambivalent about this man’s questions. You never know whom you will meet in the salon. All sorts of people get pedicures, some of them quite interesting. However, I had become accustomed to the mindless drift of these monthly sessions. I had been enjoying the softening of my Yankee soul and now considered self-indulgent pleasure an amiable feature of life. Unexpectedly turning my mind back on was a jolt. Perhaps I should entertain the possibility that pedicures can contain mindful as well as mindless relaxation, and enjoy whatever comes my way in the salon. And newcomers should be prepared to learn that pedicures are about more than feet.
© 2016 Barbara Scott Nelson