I am cleaning out closets and cupboards in preparation for a garage sale, and I found these in my vanity table in my bedroom. For someone who doesn’t take very good care of themselves, I sure have a lot of anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, super serums.
I remember when I had only one child and was visiting David’s mother and younger sister. His sister was raving about the woman she babysat for who had two children, and apparantly, plenty of money and time, because when she had Laurie babysit, she spent a good hour in the bathroom preparing to go out. Laurie described how this woman carefully cleansed her face, applied lotion and then spent a good half hour just applying her makeup. It took her another half hour to “do” her hair. I vividly recall the look of adoration on Laurie’s face as she talked about this woman’s elaborate date preparations. I also remember how I scoffed at those same rituals, and wondered how any mother of young children could spend so much time on herself. Surely she was vain and selfish.
Years went by, much too quickly. I found my first gray hair before I turned 30, and plucked them out as fast as they came in. I was either pregnant or mothering an infant or toddler for most of my adult life. There never seemed to be time (or money) to spend on myself. On my 40th birthday I stood in the bathroom and stared at the pink line on the pregnancy test. Then I looked up and really studied my face, seemingly for the first time in years. I didn’t look too bad, and well, it was easy to convince myself I wasn’t old, because I was going to have a baby, and old people don’t have babies. I was 43 years old when our last child, Abby, was born. I really felt my age during that pregnancy, more than once falling asleep on the hard floor in the middle of the day, with Katie drawing on my legs or back with an ink pen. Anything for a bit of rest. Anything. Sometimes I sat in the warm van in the driveway, windows open, front seat pushed back, and I let Katie play while I drifted in and out of sleep. At least she was in an enclosed space and I would hear her and wake up if she left. You see, God has a sense of humor~ he gave me my two most active babies after the age of 40. Before I even knew I was pregnant with Abby I’d had a dream where I saw Katie climbing (literally climbing) my mother’s wall, with another little girl following close behind. In the dream I realized I’d had another baby like Katie and a swear word came out of my mouth. I don’t swear, but it seemed appropriate in the dream, and an apt reaction coming from a mother who was worn down from Katie’s antics.
In November of 2006, shortly after my 47th birthday, on the day my husband David returned to work after going through months of cancer treatment, I stepped into my bathroom, took a good long look in the mirror, and burst into tears. Who was this woman in the mirror? She looked so old. I regretted scoffing at that woman long ago who’d spent hours on caring for herself. If I had done the same thing, would I look so haggard? I’d just spend five months caring for an ill spouse, along with everything else I did as a homeschooling mother with several children. I was tired, out of shape and emotionally spent. Once David was okay, I kind of fell apart. He was the one who encouraged me to take care of myself by joining a women’s exercise center. I did just that, joining Curves in February of 2008, and now regularly walking with my sister. I started doing other things for my long-neglected self; going out to write alone or getting up early to have time without children, having my hair cut, looking for nice clothes at my sister’s shop, and buying make-up. What I used to think of as indulgences have become my way of taking care of myself. And I am happier for it.
The lotions? I wonder if it really would have mattered if I’d started using them when I was in my 20’s. Would they really have turned back the clock on my aging, or would I still look like what I am, an almost-50-year-old woman? And, even if they had helped prevent some of the fine lines and wrinkles, would David’s cancer have cancelled out any good they had done, anyway?
Because there is no denying it. The experience of cancer aged both of us. And they don’t make lotions for that.