In my family October 4th may as well be a national holiday. My dad impressed upon us from an early age that our mother’s birthday is a special day. When we were little we would spend hours on cards and drawings. My dad would complete the celebration with a cake, bouquet and always a small box containing a new bauble. Now we are older, and still, we try to find the way to be together to celebrate our mom. This is no longer an easy task, as two out of my three siblings live out of state. Lucky for me, I am responsible for the gifts. My father gives me free reign to use his credit card to buy my mom anything and everything she would like. I always joke and tell my dad that as a commission, I get to buy myself a few items too.
So this year, as I rush to call the florist, buy and wrap the gifts, and select the perfect cards, I find myself annoyed, rushed and frazzled. Not because of the shopping duties, but instead, with the reality that I find myself with so little time to do what I think is most important. We end up singing “Happy Birthday” at a local restaurant, over a large personalized dulce de leche cake. After blowing out the candles, my mom thanks each of us for orchestrating her “perfect birthday.” Thank goodness my mother is flexible, tolerant and loves her grandchildren, because today, her birthday celebration was a bit more chaotic and a lot more disorganized than my siblings and I would have liked. Between saying thank you, and passing her birthday cake around for all of us to enjoy, my mom turns the tables, and says that this year, she has a gift for her daughters and that she has arranged a spa day for the girls in the family. (We are from Argentina and the men in this family do NOT go to spas). My mom says that spending the day relaxing together is the perfect gift she has chosen to give to herself and us.
Everyone is grateful and excited to escape the everyday routine and head out to a spa day, except for me. I’m stressed. To be honest, I have never been a calm and relaxed person. Taking a time out to be massaged, polished, waxed and cleansed has never been high on my list. I am not a touchy-feely person and I am picky about which lotions (and hands) touch my face and body. (I was scarred by a past esthetician who chose to enjoy a cigarette right before my facial).
I am further put off by spa days by the fact that my three children rely mainly on me to orchestrate their days. In order to get away for a few hours, I have to get organized and make pickup, drop off, snack and bath plans for the boys. (I am usually most successful when I let go of my plan, and just offer my kids and husband a bribe, in exchange for some “me” time).
As we pack our spa day bags, load the car and get on our way, we are all plugged in to calling, texting and communicating with our kids, husbands and fiances. I barely greet my sister when I realize my son’s soccer bag was mistakenly left in my car and that he won’t have his special orange soccer ball for practice today (I feel sorry for whoever has to deal with that tantrum). I almost miss the check-in process, as I’m running late trying to find a way for the ball and water bottle to get back to my house before soccer practice. I am given a robe, a locker key and sandals, and my sisters, mom, grandmother and I rush to get comfortable. We laugh at and with each other, as we debate on whether or not we get fully naked versus not-fully naked (under our robes). We joke about how disheveled we look, take some pictures, get a pre-massage tea, and laugh some more as we wait for our names to be called.
Before I realize it, I am “connecting with the moon, earth and sky” as my masseuse explains the need to relax and disconnect from stress. Connecting with the moon, earth or sky, I must admit, is not a big priority for me. But I start relaxing as I realize just how tired and stressed I am. The soft music, coupled with the warm blanket and neck pillow, is set just perfectly, and I do begin to drift off. My mind goes blank, and I enjoy the quiet that fills my mind. I focus on enjoying the “here and now,” and don’t even realize that time is passing. Before I know it, I am rubbing my eyes and thanking my masseuse. I didn’t fall asleep, but thanks to the “no cell phone” policy, I was able to enjoy the art of doing nothing — which is a learned behavior, one that I still have not mastered.
Right then and there, as the women in my family sit down to laugh, talk, eat and laugh some more , I begin to realize just how generous my mom was in giving us this spa day gift. Learning to let go and take care of oneself is not only important, it is actually a necessity. It is a right, not a privilege. Luckily for me, when I arrive home, the kids are excited to show me a special surprise. They have prepared a home spa, all set with lotions, water and towels. They lay me down quickly and begin to lather the lotions, perfumes and hand soap on my feet, arms and legs. Their good intentions do not go unnoticed, on the contrary, I resist the urge to ask that the kids switch lotions as I realize my expensive face cream is now being used as pedicure soap. I don’t think of the mess they have probably made in the bathroom, or the towels they are now wrapping my feet in. I close my eyes and try to “connect with the moon, earth and sky.”