My mother had a standing 3:30 appointment on Thursday afternoons at the beauty parlor when I was a child. There were no highlights or blow dries offered there. This was the old school salon that offered perms, wash and sets and an occasional cut. My mother, as many women in that generation, did not touch her hair in between appointments. Her only preparation each morning before work, was to apply an armor producing coating of hairspray to her head. Her curls would survive a hurricane! I would be dragged along on these appointments and succumb to boredom in the hour and a half we were there. By the age of 9, I was a weekly reader of both "Good Housekeeping" and the "Ladies Home Journal". Perhaps my later vocation as a psychotherapist was due in part to all those "Can This Marriage Be Saved" columns.
There is a room on my mothers unit that is the domain of Rita. Rita is a short but mighty woman with a hearty laugh, warm brown eyes and a heart of gold. She operates the beauty parlor on the Alzheimers unit. Much like the beauty parlor of my youth, this one offers perms, wash and sets and cuts. Not on the menu, but offered in large quantity are hugs, respect for her clients and lollipops. This room is an oasis within the troubled landscape just outside the door. Clients in this room have no agitation, no confusion, nor do they try to wander away. It is said that the body remembers what the mind forgets. I watch my mothers face as she settles in for her wash and set. A smile breaks as she is given her lollipop and as the warm water and Ritas' gentle hands massage her scalp, she closes her eyes in bliss. No confusion here....she remembers precisely the comfort and pleasure of a good shampoo.
I accompany my mother on this weekly appointment. Gone are the magazines, as I would not read them anyway. I savor the experience each week and the memories it brings to mind. Touch....whether a gentle massage, a hug, or a hand lightly stroking her cheek is still a common experience we can share. Lifes best gifts are found in the small things....Ritas' hearty laugh, a long ago memory.....a lollipop.