I’ve been going to the same nail salon for the last seven years. The women that work there are all Vietnamese and very friendly.
They’ve showed me pictures of their weddings. Over time I’ve seen the progress of their growing pregnant bellies while they work six-day weeks inhaling the acetone and nail polish fumes of female vanity.
They’ve seen me pregnant too, with my first and only child. We have a language barrier, so our exchanges are limited to single sentences and lots of smiles.
Sometimes though, I feel like I’m in the movie “Ground Hog Day”. It goes like this:
“I need my nails done”
“Pick color. Go to number five.”
I walk over and sit at station number five.
“ You want wax? Pedicure? Massage?”
“No. Not today. Just my nails.”
Then the question I always get, even after seven years; no matter who does my nails.
“You not working today?"
I have been a stay-at-home mom for six-and-a-half years. They know it. I tell them all the time. Maybe they secretly hope I’ll get a paying job and tip them better.
As my nails are expertly inspected another recurring question comes up.
“Where your son?
“He’s in summer camp.”
“When you have another baby?”
“Oh. No. Not me. Just one.”
“Why not? Your son: he lonely. Give him brother or sister.”
We both exhaust our capacity to talk any further. I smile and look past her. Erica Kane moves silently on the flat screen TV mounted on a wall behind her.
My true answer would make anyone more light-headed than the fumes permeating the salon.
I became pregnant when I was 41 years old. (Career took precedent and true love was elusive. If you do the math you can guess my age)
My water broke when I was 22 weeks pregnant. I spent the next eight weeks in total bed-rest. I watched late summer turn to autumn through the sixth-floor window of a hospital room, praying each day that my son would not come too early.
He did. Ten weeks early. He and I spent eight more weeks in the neonatal ICU fattening him up as he occasionally set alarms blaring when his heart rate dropped and he turned blue because his premature body had not learned how to suck, swallow and breathe at the same time. He finally came home weighing a healthy six pounds. Our rare case should be somewhere in a medical book.
Soon after, my marriage began to crumble, complicating any plans for an expanded family.
Regardless of the circumstances, I am blessed with a healthy, happy and adorable son. The love I feel and get from this only child is the most awesome and fulfilling experience of my life.
Number five’s voice filters into my thoughts.
“Sure no wax, pedicure? Just one service today?”
I'm good thanks.” I reply. “Just one is good.”