Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Tonight Mom and I got facials. Every once in a while we go to a local cosmetology school for pedicures or facials. If you have never had a facial, go get one for goodness' sake. Male or female, do it. Basically: massage for your face. Now I know what you're thinking, who needs a massage on their face? Because your face doesn't feel particularly tense, or stretched, etc. But believe you me, the power of human touch is a phenomenon we will never fully grasp.

My favorite part of the facial occurs at various times during the hour of bliss. Between the massaging of various scrubs and lotions into the folds and crevices of your face, pressing down on the sinuses worn out from excessive nose-blowing (oh wait, that is an affliction that only I have), the light tapping on the forehead...between these pieces of gloriousness, something even more glorious occurs. They pull these hot, wet towels from some mysterious cave (my eyes are always closed, so I don't know where these magic towels appear from, and I rather like the mystery) and place them on your face. They leave your nose exposed so you can, you know, breathe, but oh my goodness, the feeling underneath that towel. My eyes are involuntarily closing right now just at the thought of it; it is a good thing I know my home-row keys and can type without looking at the keyboard--life skill, kids, listen to those computer teachers of yours.

When that towel is on your face, you are in your own personal cave. I am not being silly when I say that I feel like no harm can come to me when I am enveloped underneath that terry cloth compress; that is honestly the emotion that rises within me. The cloth is gently pressed on, offering pressure to your cheeks and forehead, and giving your pores a bit of the sweet drink. That gentle pressure offers the same feeling of escaping into a closed off room when you are at a loud social gathering and you just want to be with yourself. You close the door and the people are still there, but they are muffled. Ideally, no one sees you slip beyond the door, so they won't come shuffling in after you, cocktail in hand, ready to gossip about that cutie across the way.

Each time the towel is removed, they don't just move on to the next step in the facial. They gently wipe the lotion, or scrub, or mask from your face, with the towel. Slowly, across and under the draw line of your chin, around your hairline, the bridge of your nose. No rush. Cleaning you up, not neglecting you for something more important, to pick up the kids from school, dishes in the sink, a phone call, the crossword.

Tonight as I lay underneath one of the towels, my imagination cruised to motherhood. I usually think more selfishly of the newlywed stage of my future, receiving all the attention from the one I love. But occasionally I think of the people who will help me depart from my arrogance, my pride, from me me me. I think of caregiving, of little arms that will bring math books to me, with moist eyes and sniffly noses, coming in desperation to their mother for help with the long division that just doesn't make sense, the long division that can instill the type of dread in a child that makes them imagine unforgiving teachers tomorrow, fear that if they can't overcome math then what will they be able to accomplish? I imagine being the mother who has overcome the math, who remembers the dread, who can tell my sullen offspring that they too will overcome the math, and so much more. I imagine bringing them into my lap, or pulling my chair to theirs so the arms touch, first calming the irrational fears, then scribbling arrows on the loose leaf page, explaining, "the remainder is what's left over, and you write it here, 'R3.'"

Tonight as I was served by a servant heart, I pictured my future child, I thought of the day when I will (please, God, hopefully) have a servant heart, and will bring a warm compress to a cheek, a forehead, a nose, after a rousing day of fun at recess, now smudged with dirt. I want to offer security, love, the knowing that he is taken care of and accounted for, each and every day, to that child. With a terry cloth soaked in hot water, not too hot, wrung out over the sink. Look into her eyes, smile back when she lets loose a shy grin, all the while reinforcing the presence of her caretaker with the stroke of a washcloth across her cheek. Start at the edge of the nose, move horizontally toward the ear. Then across the chin, across the forehead, the nose, then the other cheek.

A hot towel placed on my face by a complete stranger can create all of that in my heart. And that should prove to you how powerful is the human touch, and how awakening is a facial.

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