Ms. Vivienne was my oldest clients at 95 years young. Her daughter Dianne would bring her in once a month for a manicure/pedicure. Ms. Vivienne had the prettiest hair, which was always coiffed & held in place with a hair net. The color was snow white, with no tinges of yellow, while her eyes were a beautiful shade of azure blue. They reminded me of how blue the ocean waters were in Cancun & just as crystal clear. When I first met Ms. Vivienne (which that was a wild story for another time) her mind was still pretty sharp, but over the years she developed some senility.

 

The first time I became aware of the problem was during her manicure she  said she was leaving to go back home. As she put it, she “wore out her welcome” here with her daughter! Home for her was Iowa, but her daughter (who herself was in her 60’s) had moved her here to Kentucky in order to take care of her, in addition to taking care of her own wheelchair bound husband! Ms. Vivienne went into great detail about how she was going to take the train back home & stay awhile.

 

When her daughter came to pick her up I cheerfully asked if she was all packed for her big trip, assuming she would be going, too. That was when her daughter rolled her eyes, saying “Now Mother, you know you aren’t going back to Iowa. We told you that this wasn’t a good time”. Then I caught on to what she really meant. Every month after that when Ms. Vivienne came in, she’d tell me the story of her impending trip home & it would always go like this:

She’d be taking the train right after her nails were done & it should only take about 4 hours to get there (to Iowa!). Her father is a physician & her mother helps him in his office, but both of them could use her help, too. Remember, Ms. Vivienne was 95 years old, so it’s safe to assume that both her parents were long deceased. The train station was just a short walk from her house, but someone would be there to meet her. Usually it was the “constable” of the town, she’d tell me. He’d escort her home safely.

They have 2 women that help her mother around the house, one being a cook & the other a housekeeper. Her father makes house calls to sick people or women in labor & sometimes he’s gone all day. He’s delivered many, many babies over the years. Her brother would help tend to the garden, along with the gardener they employ, while she kept busy in her fathers office.

It never varied. I heard this story 1x per month for a few years.

 

I aways played along like I’d never heard any of this before, because to say anything contrary would only cause her confusion. I would ask the same questions at each visit & she’d get great pleasure from telling me about her life in Iowa. It reminded me of the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day” where every day he wakes up on Groundhog Day & it’s the same day over & over & over again until he gets it right (whatever “it” is I cannot recall).

 

Back when Miss Vivienne’s mind was clearer I asked her what it was like living through the Great Depression. Every elderly person that lived through the Depression remembers how horrible it was & how they just barely scraped by. My own Aunt recalled how as kids they would chase the coal wagon down the street & take home chunks of fallen coal, later to be used to help heat the house. Aunt said they’d also chase the “ice man” down the street in the summer to pick up chunks of ice that fell from the wagon as it transported the big blocks of ice from house to house.

 

There wasn’t modern refrigeration back then, so each household would buy whatever size chunk of ice they’d need to put into their “ice box” to keep their food from spoiling. Since there was no such thing as an ice cream man to make the rounds back in the day, these ice chips were wiped off & the kids sucked on them to keep cool in the summer! It’s hard to imagine now. We who are living through the “Great Recession” need to stop being such whiny little tittie-babies. So cry a little…..”waaahh, you can’t find a job that you like”. These people couldn’t find FOOD!

 

Typically during the Depression families conserved what they had, reused & repurposed things without throwing anything away, sewed their own clothes, baked their own bread, grew their own vegetable gardens, bartered livestock, & generally did what they had to do in order to survive. It was a very lean & scary time not remembered with fondness. My Grandfather told us of how he “jumped a train” (I presume hobo style) to go find work in Chicago. He left my Grandmother behind in PA. to care for the children & house, sending money to do so until times got better & he returned. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask what kind of work he did, how long he was there, where he stayed, etc. & wrote it down when I had the chance. But they’re long gone now, so that part of their history we’ll never know. Take note, young folk! Document your kin’s stories NOW while you can!

 

Anyway, Ms. Vivienne’s Great Depression experience was like none I’d ever heard. She truly did not remember going without. Her physician father provided amply for her, her brother & their mother. The 2 siblings had no chores, either. Instead she recalls having music lessons & recitals. Her mother didn’t have to really do much around the house, since they had the cook & the housekeeper. She mostly ran her husbands office & kept the files. This was a very, very interesting view of the world from what I assume was a small minority of privileged people & I was fascinated by it!

 

You could tell that Ms. Vivienne was well cared for just by looking at her. Her skin, although wrinkled, was still porcelain & believe it or not she still had most all of her own teeth! No false teeth or bridges! Her brother had long been gone, as well as her husband, but I don’t know those details. When I once asked her questions about her husband she couldn’t really recall him, so I changed the subject before I distressed her. I only wanted her to remember the happy times whenever she saw me.

 

On one visit Ms. Vivienne told me that something bad had happened. This was out of the normal “Groundhog Day” routine visit for us, so I asked what it was. She looked upset & whispered to me that her whole family was dead! Her mother, her father, & her brother, but she couldn’t remember what had happened or how they died. I pretty much figured out that she must’ve been pestering her daughter about going home to Iowa & her daughter in frustration finally snapped & told her that there was no more family there for her, nor the house in which she grew up in. It was a sad moment, but thankfully it never happened again.

 

It was always a joy to see Ms. Vivienne, but every month around the time when she was due for a visit, I’d anticipate that dreaded phone call from her daughter informing me that she’d died & each month when it didn’t happen would be such a relief.  I really cherished her visits because she was so sweet & kind, even when we’d talk about the same things over & over & over again!

 

Finally it just got increasingly too hard to get Ms. Vivienne up to the 2nd floor location of my salon. Her daughter would slowly walk up the steps behind Ms. Vivienne, one step at a time, using her hands to half push, half guide her Mom’s rear end up the steep steps (about 15 of them)! Then I’d stand at the top of the stairs encouraging her to keep going. The whole process would take about 15 minutes! Then we’d guide her over to the chair to get her nails done first, after which her toes. Between services I’d always take a restroom break while she was soaking in the pedi tub & I’d pray that she wouldn’t die in the 3 minutes while I was gone!

 

We had to call it quits when Vs. Vivienne developed bursitis in her hips, but I’d call her every so often….like on her birthday & holidays. The last time I spoke to her, her daughter said she wouldn’t remember me because her mind was too far gone, but to speak loud because her hearing was feeble now, too. So there I was cheerfully yelling into the phone & trying to engage her in conversation. She sounded very happy, but I don’t know if she recognized my voice or not. That was the last time I ever spoke to her.

 

Later the next year I bumped into her daughter in the grocery store & she told me that Ms. Vivienne had passed away around Thanksgiving. I think she was around 96 or 97 years old by then. I immediately teared up & almost started crying right there in the pharmacy section! Ms. Vivienne will always have a good place in my heart & it makes me happy that I could tell her story. Easter always makes me think of my own Grandparents, so I guess that’s why Ms. Vivienne came to mind today.

 

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One day a client told me that her mother had been in a horrible car wreck up in Chicago & that she’d have to take a leave of absence from work to go
take care of her. She went into great detail about the wreck, how bad it was,
& how horribly injured her mother was. It sounded positively horrific!

Now this lady had been getting her nails done faithfully every 2 weeks for about 2 years & I felt terrible for her! We agreed that I’d take her off my appointment book for the remaining 2 months of the year while she tended to her ailing mother. She never asked me to take off her artificial nails & I never asked what she planned to do about them. I wished her & her poor mother well as she left the salon.

As time went by, I periodically thought about her & hoped her mom was ok. One night about 3 months later, while I was doing the nails of 2 clients who both worked with this other lady, her name came up in the conversation. So while my clients nails were drying I thought I’d give her a quick call to see how her mother was getting along. Turning my back to my 2 clients sitting at my nail table, I dialed the phone on the wall. I fully expected her husband to answer, or the machine to pick up, since she probably would still be in Chicago nursing her mother back to health.

Her husband did answer the phone & so I identified myself as his wife’s nail tech.  Upon inquiring gravely (with that low voice we all use when we’re not really expecting a good answer) “How’s your mother-in-law getting along?” he cheerfully replied “Oh, she’s fine”!  It seemed strange for him to sound so chipper about it, but I didn’t have time to ponder this any longer because he informed me that his wife was standing right beside him & would I like to talk to her?

Right about THEN was when it hit me that her whole story had been a lie! I could feel my face start to flush from the embarrassment of the situation, & in the back of my mind I was acutely aware that my 2 clients drying their nails had suddenly become very, very quiet. It was an awkward situation for both of us, because when she was thrust onto the phone by her unknowing husband, she was caught totally off guard & didn’t have a good lie in place.

She began ad-libbing about how her mother was still recovering & that she needed to go back to Chicago tomorrow. She babbled on a bit more & I could feel the heat spreading from my neck up to my face & even to the top of my head. I was SO embarrassed I could’ve just died! I told her that I understood & that she could call me whenever her life settled back down, but it was obvious to the both of us that SHE knew, that I knew, that SHE was lying! I was beyond mortified & my face was still burning red when I hung up the phone.

My 2 clients who were sitting there quietly drying their nails had overheard my end of the conversation & had figured out what the deal was. They then informed me that she had NOT been away on a leave of absence & had in fact been here in town working the entire time! They had been unaware of the big fabrication that she had told me in the first place, but since the cat was already out of the bag I just went ahead & filled them in on her car wreck story.

Needless to say, they were duly appalled. They then told me that she had a reputation around work for being a liar ever since the time a few years ago when she had told coworkers that she had breast cancer. One by one they started comparing notes & noticed that she never took time off to go to the doctor, never got chemo or radiation, & mysteriously she was still healthy, with both her breasts intact (presumably).

I’d never experienced anything quite like this before, so I was stunned. Clients usually say they just “want to let their nails breathe” or some other fluff when they want to take a break from the nail services I provide. It’s no big deal & I always make sure they know that it’s ok & that they’re always welcome back any time. I try to make the potentially awkward parting scene less dramatic than what the clients must think it will be. What are they expecting……tears, accusations, & me hurling objects across the room at them as they flee out the door?

PUH-LEASE! I’ve been doing nails WAY too long to ever take it personally. As for the liar, I never spoke to or saw this woman again. The only thing I could figure was that she must’ve wanted to take off her artificial nails & didn’t know how to tell me. Or maybe she was crazy. But more than likely she was just a compulsive liar. I’ll never know for sure. But the moral of the story is ALWAYS be truthful to your nail tech because we have ways of finding you out, even when we don’t try!

Besides, we’re big girls (& boys). We can take it.

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aka: “She Was a Stalker, When Stalking Wasn’t Cool”

When I lived in Chicago I had a client we’ll call Pat, who was a twenty-something, pretty little blonde with a good figure, a great job, plus she drove a new convertible & generally seemed to have life by the tail. She’d tell me about this new boyfriend, then that new boyfriend, & then she’d have another new boyfriend by the next time I’d see her for her nail appointment. Pretty soon I saw the pattern.

She’d cling to her new boyfriend tighter than tree bark until she drove him away, which usually only took a few weeks. So I, having had no boyfriend for well over a year & was perfectly content, couldn’t understand WHY she needed one so desperately? Eventually I came to the conclusion that between the two of us, I had the better life.

One day she came in to the salon & it was evident that she’d just experienced another break up. This particular guy she had met at her gym & they immediately jumped into a hot & heavy relationship. She previously confided to me that she had begun to sense that he was pulling away. “No duh”, I thought, but did not say. She then told me that she had hidden in wait outside the gym for him to leave so she could follow him.  She already suspected that he was seeing another woman, but needed to know for sure. Evidently, her suspicions were confirmed when she saw him greet another woman outside the gym.  The two of them began to walk down the sidewalk together, hand in hand!

So she continued to follow them at a distance until they entered an apartment building. According to Pat, she waited for them to get into the elevator. She then saw which floor the elevator came to a stop. She went up the elevator & got off on that same floor. Now I’m thinking “how in the world will she know which apartment door they entered?”.  She informed me that she recognized his shoes on the door mat in front of this particular apartment (NOTE* if you are going to cheat, bring your shoes inside).

She didn’t knock, but instead tried the door knob. Bizarre enough, it was unlocked (2nd NOTE* if you are going to cheat, lock the door behind you)! The apartment was dimly lit, but she quietly entered anyway. At this point in her story I’m wondering if she’s not only foolish, but mentally unstable as well! For God’s sake, she could’ve been shot as an intruder!

She then made her way to the bedroom & quietly pushed open the door. The room was dark, but the distinct sounds of love-making were audible. She flipped on the light & that’s when all hell broke loose! The woman in the bed let out a scream. The boyfriend saw that it was Pat & began to cuss her out. The two lovers scrambled to cover themselves with sheets, while the screaming & cursing back & forth escalated. At that moment Pat decided to quickly leave. She never did say EXACTLY what the ex-boyfriend said, but we can pretty much assume that it went along the lines of how he probably never wanted to see her again. Knowing Pat, I’m certain that she had the nerve to keep up her gym membership!

Another thing that I remember about Pat was how she always had me polish the underside of her long, acrylic nails. What a mess that was to try to clean out! She was the only client EVER to request this. And she liked to wear hot pink polish. I wonder what Freud would say about that?

 

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