Toenails and Kisses

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"Let me see your toes."


"Oh, come on. Let me just take a look. Hey, your owie is healing. It's all gone!"

My six-year-old daughter has had a bad case of athlete's foot the past few weeks. Months? I'm not sure.

I'd bought her some ointment, taught her to use it, and packed it in her backpack.

It's so hard to keep track of these things when she's only at my house Wednesday-Friday, and every other Saturday. She's at her dad's the rest of the week.

Tonight was her first night back, the Wednesday Re-Entry.

"Let me file your nails. Some of them are really jagged."

"That tickles!"

She hates it when I clip her nails. Somewhere, deep down, she must remember when I clipped her pinky fingernail too closely and made her bleed. She was just a few weeks old, then, and I didn't know what I was doing.

I still don't.

"Oh, look at all this weird dead skin next to your big toenail. That must be from your broken nail. Didn't you have a broken nail?"

"Um. I think so. A broken nail?"

"Yes, it was split down the side. You had to wear a bandage."

"Oh yeah."

"Well, it's all healed now. This is all dead skin. You won't feel a thing."

She let me clip away the dead skin. I couldn't believe how trusting she was being. This is a kid who needs a bandage for the slightest scratch, the most infinitesimal owies.

"Wow. I didn't feel anything."

"Yep. Cuz the skin was all dead."

"Let me see it."

It was so nice to be sitting together, again, after three days apart. I can't believe how quickly her nails grow.

They get so jagged while she's gone. So grimy.

Her father has a weird thing about clipping and filing nails. It reminded him of his mother. He couldn't stand it when I filed mine. He never clipped his own, just bit them to the quick.

"I'm so glad you're here with me. I love you honey."

"I love you too, mommy."

I wondered if he has ever clipped her nails... if he brushes her teeth, washes her hair.

I noticed that her fingernails had the remnants of sparkly purple nail polish.

Last Friday, the last night she was at my house, I was all done-up for my 20th high school reunion: hair, make-up, a pedicure, and my yearly manicure.

My daughter was jealous. She was mad I didn't take her to the nail salon too. She told my mom, who was babysitting, "Mommy cares more about being pretty than being with me."

Guilt trip! Nice try!

I gave her a "lipstick kiss" and told her I loved her.

I told her they could do nail polish if she wanted, but then I forgot to get it out for them.

We both forgot about it the next day.

Sitting on the couch this evening, together again, I almost asked her if her stepmother had put nail polish on her.

Then I caught myself. I thought about my husband's ex-wife, and how she must feel when I do things for her boys.

I rephrased it, made it open-ended, deftly avoiding saying her other mother's name.

"Who did your nail polish?"

"I did."

"Oh, wow. Nice job!"

She's really growing up.


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