Paterfamilias and I have fled the February chill of the northeast for a week in Oaxaca, Mexico. It's deliciously warm here but it's dry--and that takes a toll on nails. Which is a long way of saying I found myself sitting in a little salon in the shadow of the Santo Domingo church having my fingernails shaped by a pleasant señora who used the slimmest and smallest of emery boards and a small wooden stick to shape my nails.
Nearby sat a fellow-American woman who answered to the name Lisa and whose feet were submerged in a pink plastic tub of soapy water. Her complaint: she had been traveling around Mexico for a month now and the dry weather had cracked the skin on her feet. There was hardly room for another customer until Linda walked into this teeny, old-world nail shop. She sat down and submerged her feet in a similar plastic bowl of soapy water. She too was suffering from cracked skin on her heels.
Three female gringas gathered in the intimate comfort of a manicure-pedicure shop--without massage chairs or other high end, techno-accoutrements of an ultra-modern salon---are bound to start talking, strangers though we were.
Lisa spoke of the weariness of traveling for a month and how she had another month to go before she could return home--she had rented out her house in Puerto Vallarta for two months. Three of those remaining weeks would be in Oaxaca where she was taking language and cooking classes. But the last one would be in Colorado, visiting her grown children. At this point in her travels, the last week would be the cherry to top the end of her wanderings.
Linda had been in Oaxaca for a week--with her adult children as visitors. The pedicure, in effect, was marking the beginning of her vacation: the children had headed home that morning. "What a relief!" she said and sighed loudly. She and her husband had rented a house for a month. It was big enough to accommodate her guests, but the day-to-day planning, the constant company, the responsibilities to make sure food and beverages were in supply, that the daughter was getting along with the son, and their spouses were getting along as well were stressful.
It's always like that when kids come to visit but it's double the stress, Linda said, when you're on vacation in unfamiliar surroundings (she was from Canada) and where you speak the language rudimentarily or not at all. She stretched her legs out, wriggled her toes in the water, and let out another sigh. We love our grown children, she seemed to say on behalf of all of us. We treasure the time we spend with them. But we also reach a point where, oh what a relief it is to not to have them and their energy around.