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Cotton Candy

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Cotton Candy


The store never changed. The same “Number One Nails” flickered in front of me. I thought to myself, “maybe this time.” Every Saturday my mom had a routine of her own, and being six years old her routine is my routine. Up at eight, tanning at nine, nails at eleven, lunch by twelve. Of course my idea of a good Saturday was watching Saturday morning cartoons and eating fruit loops. But tagging along was a privilege, a motivation. Every time was a new opportunity, and I was determined.

I remember sitting in the plush leather chair. It had those wheels on the bottom, and like any six year old it was quite entertaining. I would roll around on the artificial marble floors. The smell of acrylic never went away. My mom sat in another leather chair with her hands held hostage to a Vietnamese man. He was short, and his skin was remarkably dry. He would sit quietly and mumble his native language into a Bluetooth headset. He would rarely say anything other than “go wash hands” after applying cuticle oil to my mother’s freshly manicured hands. I would watch him as he preformed the same steps to perfect my mother’s nails. After the first sixteen times I knew what he would do next. And each time when he started to rub the previous polish off my mother’s nails I would ask, “Mom, can I PUH-LEASE get my nails done today? PLEASE!” “Next time, Rach.” She replied carelessly. “But mom, you say next time EVERY time! Today, please, just today?” “Rachel, I said next time.”

I would storm away every time and find myself an open pedicure chair, turn on the back massager, and watch whatever was on the over-sized television. I would sit there hoping that she would change her mind due to my quivering bottom lip. But every time I would wait, and wait, and wait. She wouldn’t change her mind.

Eventually I would get bored, return to the plush leather chair next to her, and finish watching her hands transform. One week she would choose red, another she might choose pink; it depended on how the week went. If mom and dad got in a fighting, she always got them French. Dad hated French. If the week went well, she would get red. Oh, and the holidays. Airbrush designs of snowflakes, cupid for Valentine’s Day, watermelons for summer and rhinestones for everyday. My mom, the thirty-something wanted to be the twenty-something. And to me, no matter what age she was, she was still mom—The mom that wouldn’t let me get my nails done.

Four hundred and eighteen Saturdays later I still would follow my mom on her Saturday morning escapades, even though I had my own routine too. Up at eight, tanning at nine, nails at eleven, lunch by twelve. And still I would sit in the plush leather chair watching the short, quiet Vietnamese man buff, file, drill, and polish my mother’s nails. Six years later, he was still following the same steps I memorized when I was a kid.

This Saturday was the last Saturday I would attempt to ask the burning question my mom grew to hate. After awhile I didn’t even need to ask, she answered it before we even arrived. Strangely, this Saturday she didn’t even mention it. So I waited until he pulled out the industrial-sized acetone bottle to remove her previous polish. I waited a few seconds, and then the question just came out. “Mom, can I please get my nails done today?” I didn’t beg, or whine, or complain about waiting six years, I simply just asked her the question. “Sure.” That’s all she said. Sure. I was surprised to hear that considering I’ve prepared myself for my whole life to hear, “Maybe next time, Rach.” Finally, I was growing up.

I didn’t know where to start. They had more colors than Sherwin Williams, and of course I didn’t know which one to pick. I knew I wanted something that I would remember when I am twenty seven and taking my daughter to get her nails done for the first time. So I pick red, then purple, then green, the blue. My mom walked over and picked up the lightest shade of pink. It glimmered and had a purple reflection to it. It was called “cotton candy.” I like it.





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