My mother-in-law Beatrice was one of my favorite chums. Lucky me? You bet. Having heard firsthand about, not to mention read about many mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law wars, I knew I was very, very lucky.
What was her trick?
She genuinely liked people, including me. Her loving kindness toward me becoming my role model toward my son-in-law and daughter-in-law. After all, if my clever, kind children chose these people as life partners, I knew they must be wonderful.
And they are.
When we moved to Mexico City, Beatrice came to visit us, following a tradition that had begun when we moved to Curacao in the early 1980s. Having herself lived abroad in Lima, Peru for almost two decades in the 1960s and 70s, she treasured and respected Latin America. Plus, her visits always gave me an inquisitive buddy to explore the world with.
She decided she wanted to go for a long weekend to a Mexican spa outside of Mexico City. It wasn’t fancy. No award-winning chefs of Canyon Ranch, but more Lonely Planet backpacker, thin towel frugality. Nevertheless, the spa did have treatments.
Letting her lead the way, she chose an exfoliation treatment for both of us. In turn we went into a large tiled room. The scrub-and-washdown treatment involved stripping and lying naked on a rather chilly stainless steel table, where I felt like a side of ribs in a Texas barbecue joint. A hefty, no nonsense Mexican woman entered with brushes and some liquid to scrub my body with.
Despite my improving Español, I chose not to chit-chat with her about the liquid she was using that looked and smelled suspiciously like the ubiquitous floor cleaner, Fabuloso. After the scrubdown, I was lined up against a tile wall and squirted with a powerful hose. I felt like Bruce Willis in one scene in the film, 12 Monkeys.
After my turn, I stumbled out of the treatment room to find my mother-in-law beaming at me. How did my skin feel, she asked. Tingly, I responded. She smiled happily, babbling on about how much less scaly and dry her skin felt. Given my body still pumped estrogen, I hadn’t a clue what she was talking about.
But now that I’m her age then, I understand exactly what she was talking about. No matter how much moisturizer I slather on my aging skin, it has gotten drier and thinner. While grounded at home by Covid-19, I looked for self-care ideas for very dry skin. “Dry brushing” popped up, so in the view that nothing ventured means nothing learned, I bought a recommended brush.
When it arrived, I could hardly wait to try it. Gently brushing my skin, as recommended, “towards my heart”, I had a distinct oooh moment. The memory of my gone, but not forgotten, mother-in-law and our shared 12 Monkeys experience at the Mexican spa flooded back. Only now I did feel what she had felt then, every bit of my brushed my skin awakened, like doing Tai Chi on steroids.
I remembered Beatrice, hearing her voice as she’d start a sentence with the tell of “Candace, darling” which always meant she wanted something that I probably would give. As her goal had been to leave memories behind, she’d be so very happy that she had succeeded at doing so. Stuff breaks, stuff wears out or does a walkabout disappearance act. But shared memories, especially of the warm and fuzzy sort, will last a lifetime.