As she delicately painted purple on my nails with an overly-thick and probably expired nail polish, she looked at me with concern. I knew what she was thinking. “Is this okay?” I took a deep breath and I smiled as I continued to look at her face, her expressions. I consciously decided that, “yes, this is okay,” and I made sure my face told her that. I wore the smile as if I were holding the door open to my heart.
Three-year- old Luna, with her tiny fingers, painted my nails as if she were painting a picture, as a 3-year-old. It was messy. It was deliberate. It was focused. It was beautifully imperfect. She went outside the lines and painted the areas around my nail a beautiful shade of purple. She reassured us both as she smiled, “It’s okay, right mom?”
“Yes, this is okay.”
I was terribly happy sitting in my treasured 4.99 old-fashioned lawn chair I found at Salvation Army. It’s the kind that’s made with the plastic tubed strips lined up along the entire width of the chair, which somehow magically holds an adult human, and which folds in three parts allowing for the adjustment of both head and feet. I love this chair. I’ve only had it a few weeks and already it has provided me with cherished experiences. The most recent one being the time my three-year-old life companion painted my nails in the most heart-warmingly awful way.
I had painted the nails of my other hand first, so I had something to compare her work to. In fact I did the thumb and pointer fingers of the hand before she finished it. And I have to say, my work is boring in comparison. As I sat there, allowing the experience to happen, allowing her to paint my nails the way she- as a 3 year old- was going to paint my nails, I thought of her painting my nails at something like age 9, then 17, then 25. How different she will do it then. How much more like something I initially imagined my nails would look like when we went outside to paint our nails that day.
I thought of what it would be like to keep this work of hers the way it is. What would it be like to keep the purple nail polish on the area around my fingers without intentionally removing it? It would come off naturally, I posited, as it usually does when I do my own and go outside the lines. In the shower, or while doing dishes, or gradually throughout the day as I wash my hands and use my fingers it would rub off. What would remain is the textured work of thick paint and imperfect lines and layers.
I allowed myself to experience what it would be like to be imperfect for a day. Two days later, as my nail color started to chip and fade the boldest remains were the three fingers she worked on. They are my favorite. They induce deep feelings of joy and peace. Truly, they are perfect in every imperfect way.