Grit and Polish

My maternal grandmother was a full-time working mother throughout her three children’s whole lives, from the time she graduated from high school until she retired from her pink-collar job (in a role that we would call now an administrative assistant and expect some progression in the title and responsibilities over a career, but what was named then as a secretary, for decades). I’m typing these words on my hand-me-down MacBook Air, the keys and foldable computer slim and stable against my desk, my wrists comfortably supported, the key presses mere puffs of air and effort; she spent most of her 40+hour work weeks pounding on a manual typewriter at astonishing speed that sounded like BB shots, and her fingers gnarled with arthritis were testament to the strain that was. My maternal grandfather was reliable and steady in his work, as a trucker and then as a mechanic, but my grandmother was the primary income in the family and the one who took care of the finances, as well as, of course—given that her career and child-bearing years stretched from the mid-1930s through the late 1970s—the only housekeeper (with some chores assigned sometimes to her children), grocery-shopper and cook, and child-raiser (with the sterner and less engaged approach typified by parents in those decades).
Every Saturday, she tore the family’s small and tidy house apart, and then engaged in the process to return it to spotlessness. She dusted every surface, every knickknack and book, every ledge and fold, including the vertical ones of the drapes. She—or her children, as my mother remembers—moved the couch and living room chairs to vacuum under them, then put them back into place to vacuum the seats and then under the cushions. She used old toothbrushes in the kitchen and the bathroom (they had 1-3/4 bathrooms, a suburban luxury in their home in the then newly built area of Phoenix) to scrub even the tiniest crevasses. When the whole space for which she took on the entire responsibility was gleaming, she left for the beauty salon and her stylist/beautician friend, Frida, where she had her short hair set and her nails—fingers and toes—polished to “keep herself up” and to be professional at the office.
I try to emulate her (and my parents’) efficient hard work every day of my life; on August 17 each year—her birthday, back in 1917, although she has long passed of Alzheimer’s—I like to schedule a manicure for myself at a salon in honor of her and her devotion to her family, to her work, to the spaces that each occupied, to the efforts required to keep all of that and herself in fine form. This year, it wasn’t possible for me to go on her birthday, but I completed my pilgrimage today, with apologies to her for sitting down the day before housecleaning, a reversal of the usual order only possible because of the modern miracle of a shellac mani, which stands up to vigorous, hands-on work. So—do you have something in mind that you could do this weekend to link you to the memory of a loved one? Something that would delight you with color? Something that could nurture yourself? Whatever that might be for you, please do that, and I will love to hear about it!