Thursday, February 23, 2006

Red Toenails

I once read a story about an elderly couple still deeply in love after many, many years of marriage. The wife had always prided herself on the fact that she kept her toes perfectly painted. She did this herself, as women of that generation generally eschew having someone go at their feet with the sharp instruments that are used in professional pedicures. The years crept up and took a toll on her flexibility. Arthritis left her unable to bend over far enough to paint her toes anymore. One day, she was sitting outside enjoying a spring day with some family members when her husband noticed that her toes weren’t painted. He asked why, and she told him. And do you know what he did? He went into the house, got her bottle of red nail polish from the medicine cabinet, and sat down and painted her toes for her.

There are a couple of things about this story that get me. The first is obvious – the husband cares enough about his wife and her sense of pride in her appearance that he sheds his super-masculine identity for a few minutes to perform such a tender act of painting her toenails, which is a rather delicate operation. The image of his large, wrinkled, weathered hands cradling her little old lady foot sort of epitomizes long-term love to me.

The second thing that gets me about this story is that he noticed. She probably had no idea that he knew on a conscious level that her toes were always painted. Women don’t think men notice that sort of thing very much. He noticed, though. He knew it was a point of pride for her, he noticed when a detail as small as nail polish was missing, he cared enough to inquire why, and loved her enough to know that it is the details that help define a personality, even when the detail is as small and seemingly superficial as nicely-painted toenails.

For the record, mine are always painted too. Usually red, because red is for happiness, red is for love, and red is for luck. This of course means that I have happy, in love, lucky toes.

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