My neighbor Dee has a one year old daughter, Anna. This little girl gets full body shivers when she is excited. She inspires full body shivers in me when I see her and she bobs with glee before I swoop her into the air, both of us chortling with pleasure. These little human beings are amazing at digging up buried mirth. They bring it, bubbling up to the surface and light up the world. She is an endorphin trip.
I love to sit on Dee’s bedroom floor while she gets ready for work. She works in the beauty industry and looks the part. Anna and I attack a pile of laundry while Dee primps and tells me funny stories. She’s full of them. I’ve mastered the art and science of listening to her while I tickle Anna and bury her under the clothes. Laundry piles are a wonderful thing for little girls. We throw socks high up in the air and learn our numbers and colors. I put her skirt on my head, she puts undies on hers and we sing and dance like there’s no tomorrow. She loves my necklace and by now, it’s around her neck.
Dee painstakingly parts tiny sections of hair and smooths the length of it between her fingers. She drops her head way down and her eyes peer way up to look in the mirror and then glides her smoking hot-iron over the hair with flare. She laughs so hard from time to time that she has to brace the hot iron against her granite counter and double over to get the whole laugh out. She waves this magic wand over her hair so rhythmically that I am entranced and all the while Anna is bopping her fingertips together and rubbing her chest, signing, “More please.” I snap back to her reality and plump her on the pile, to her chuckling delight. She catches her breath and signs again. We do it forty more times before mum is done with the back section.
Anna is so tickled at having to get my attention, she thinks it’s part of the game. In theory I would much rather play with her than watch this sacred ritual going on in the adjacent bathroom, but it’s the most riveting thing, made all the more enchanting by the puffs of thickening smoke. Dramatically, I shake my startled head at Anna and pop my eyes wide open when I look back at her. Her whole body shivers as she starts to run away so I can chase her and bury her in the clothes.
Well over an hour later, Dee moves on to her face without skipping a beat in her story. She brings out the make-up suitcase, like the Priestess. I could pack a week’s worth of winter clothes in that trunk. With a magical incantation, she lifts the lid to expose an expansive assembly of brushes and powders. There must be a hundred shades of grey alone. With one brush she caresses her eyelashes. She shuts up for that. Must be a precarious part of the process. A chunkier brush flickers over her temple and the liturgy resumes as yet brush another dabs her nose. I swallow hard and my eyes get wider and wider. The speed and talent and skill involved here rival Edward Scissorhands.
“Why are you crying, Anna??” I wonder in a hushed tone, surprised by her irreverence.
At length, the Priestess ceases her incantations and exits the sanctum looking like Queen Nefertiti. I fall prostrate at her feet onto the laundry pile suddenly feeling naked, vile, and inadequate. I bury my face in shame because up till now, my definition of primping has been – chapstick.