My Mother: A Nailspiration

20Oct09

This weekend I went to visit my parents.

One of the things I did while I was there was to hunt through some old photographs to find images of my mother’s fingernails in the 70s and 80s. They were, and still are, a thing of great beauty and wonder. One of my key childhood memories is of it being ‘grown-up time’ if my mother was painting her nails. I don’t remember being told to stop flinging my toys around when she began … it was more powerful than that. Just the weekly evening ritual of the little bottles of polish, base coat and top coat being put on the table next to her chair meant it was time to raise your game if you wanted to carry on hanging out in the sitting room. It also meant that you were unlikely to get any help with anything fiddly for the next hour or so: my mother was incredibly strict about her drying times and sat entirely static for at least an hour after painting her nails. This might seem a little weird or stand-off-ish, but it did mean they were immaculate for about a week. She played the long game. (As we learned to).

I realise that this whole picture might create an image of a somewhat distant mother. She was quite the opposite. She was glamorous (often insanely so) but she has also always been very hands-on. To the point that she had fresh manicures for each of her childrens’ births. It was always the same colour: the same shade that she also wore to her wedding.

Here is a photograph of her holding her bouquet on her wedding day.

wedding_2

Wedding manicure

(NB She asked not to have her face showing in the pictures. I’m not sure why, as she’s beautiful. I think she got shy, but maybe you can persuade her in comments)

Then … here I am, hours old!

A new

New born Hemmo and matching manicure

A few years later … my sister …

New born Hem-sis

New born Hem-sis

And then … my brother (he was tiny).

Newborn Hem-bro

Newborn Hem-bro

When I asked my mother about this, she explained herself thus.

I didn’t ACTUALLY go to a beauty parlour and have a manicure before you were born you know, I did it myself! Because when you (3) had finished absorbing the love in my eyes, I wanted you to see prettiness and beauty and know from the start that those things matter to me.

Later, when I talked to her in more detail about the decision, she explained that that shade was specifically chosen so as to be pretty but not garish and confusing to a baby’s eyes.

As ever, I am torn between thinking that it’s an incredibly moving tribute to a moment in her life (and ours!) that was obviously hugely important .. and that she is a full-on Betty Draper throwback maniac. There is a chance that the truth lies in a between the two.

Either way – the birth manicures weren’t a one-off, she always had immaculate nails. For example, here I am, aged 4 months (according to the back of the picture). You win no prizes for guessing who is holding me…

Baby Hemmo

Baby Hemmo

Make of this what you will. I think it’s utterly wonderful that she had a baby that size and nails that splendid. I should also stress that I did not have a fancy schmancy au pair-y upbringing. These pics were taken in military hospitals or in army quarters.

Some might say I have some hideous people-pleasing Freudian nail polish disorder. Some might say that, just as I like cooking casseroles more than biscuits, and prefer to Coronation Street to Eastenders,  some things you just inherit from your mother. And others might say that painting your nails is fun, and it is pretty, and it is relaxing. So why shouldn’t it continue to be an area where my mother, my sister and I all feel close to each other? *buffs cuticles* My mother is truly a nailspiration.

Another time, I’ll tell you what that shade was. We did a lot of googling at the weekend too.

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3 Responses to “My Mother: A Nailspiration”

  1. Amazing post! Moving, funny, thoughtful… I am newly hooked on this blog, it is the awesomes x

  2. You mother has beautiful hands…. and I think her thoughts about you guys seeing beauty is lovely.
    *says the hideously people pleasing lipstick wearer*


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