“Where are we going?” C.J. asked me. We were loading into the car after a morning at the gym and we had a few hours to kill before we had to pick up his brother.
“Someplace,” I replied.
“No. Someplace special. Someplace where you’ve never, ever been before,” I said looking at him with a mischievous smile.
A few minutes later, we stood at the open double doors of the nail salon and he looked at me with a huge grin. He gripped my hand a little tighter in excitement.
“Is this the nail store?” he asked.
“Yes, this is where you go when you want your nails painted really nice and pretty,” I replied.
“I always want my nails painted really nice and pretty,” he said to me quietly.
He saw the wall racked with a rainbow of colored polishes and ran over to them. I informed the receptionist that we wanted two pedicures. I paused.
“C.J., do you want your fingernails and toenails painted or just your toes?” I asked in clarification.
“Just my toes, cause when I wear my shoes no one can see them.”
“Two pedicures please,” I said.
We were escorted to our huge vibrating Japanese massage chairs and foot baths filled with warm water and suds.
C.J. was near giggles watching his feet soak and I was near giggles watching my son get his first professional pedicure. The salon was quiet; all eyes were on us — my son and me on an 11 a.m. pedicure date.
“Mama, you need to tell them to get the hard stuff off of your tootsies,” he said giving my feet a disgusted look. Rude.
The pedicure pros got to work on our feet and a frenzy of chatter and laughter started. I was wishing I were fluent in the language that they were speaking so that I could eavesdrop when I heard the manager walking toward us shaking her head in disapproval. The girl doing my pedicure lightly smacked my foot getting my attention to ask me a question before the manager got much closer.
“He’s a boy,” I said, looking at my son in his brother’s hand-me-downed blue athletic shorts and a blue shirt with a police car on the front. He was looking surprisingly boyish if you ask me. But, then again, I’m used to seeing him in a skirt, heels, clip-on earrings and lip-gloss.
The embarrassed manager said she was sorry and diverted her path towards the back of the salon.
“Oh, cause I thought it was a girl. But, her and her thought it was a boy. And, her, her and her thought it was a girl. We were taking bets,” my pedicurist said smiling and pointing to the other salon workers as she went along.
She was amused and I was shocked. I leaned over towards my feet and towards my nail girl so that she could hear me better, but C.J. couldn’t.
“Well, he’s a boy, so I guess her and her are the winners,” I said with un-amused tone and look, pointing to the two salon employees who had correctly guessed that my son was a boy. None of them would make eye contact with me.
C.J. was oblivious and I did everything in my power to keep it that way. Our pedicures were done and we walked out of the salon holding hands with toilet paper rolled up and stuck between our freshly polished toes. When I saw C.J. staring at his toes and smiling, I smiled too.
A few weeks of begging later, I took him to a different salon for a pedicure. He was selecting a color when his pedicurist approached him.
“You don’t want a color,” she said, grabbing him gently by the shoulders and steering him away from the colors and towards the pedicure chair.
I stopped her in her path.
“Colors are the best part of the pedicure,” I said to her. “Aren’t they, C.J.?”
C.J. and I selected our colors. Then, C.J. vetoed the purplish-gray color that I had picked for myself and picked another color for me. I ended up with a C.J.-approved glittering violet and he chose neon pink for himself.
We sat in our massive massage chairs and the pedicures began. I read a People Magazine while he played a fashion design game on my iPhone. The lady doing his nails kept sneaking a glance at the neon pink bottle of polish that he had selected.
She was saying something to her coworker who was busy working on my feet. They were going back and forth and looking at the neon pink.
C.J. looked at me.
“Do you want pink?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
“Then, tell her,” I said.
“I want pink,” he said shyly.
“He wants pink,” I said looking at her like there was no room for discussion.
C.J. smiled at me.
“You want design on your toes? Maybe turkey for Thanksgiving?”
C.J. looked appalled. I can guarantee that my son will never want a turkey painted on his toenails.
“I want a flower,” he said.
I smiled at him in encouragement and looked at her matter-of-factly.
She granted his wish, while talking even more excitedly with her co-worker in the language that I didn’t know. Again, I wished for a moment that I were fluent in the secret language of pedicurists.
Then, I decided that I’m glad that I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Because I really don’t care. My son and I were happy, walking to our car with toilet paper worming between our purple and pink toes, walking on our heels with toes pointing up, like that would help the polish dry faster, hand in hand smiling. My son was happy and that’s all that really matters.