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Reflections from the SwampBetty and Veronica, and getting your nails done

Betty and Veronica, and getting your nails done

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader

The snowless Christmas break is over, and the kids are back in school. The winds of change continue to blow over the Mississippi Valley. During the break, we had a rare moment where all four granddaughters from three families were free of COVID, colds, and flu. They came over for a sleepover. Life will never be the same.

Kids are genetically predisposed to grow up and change quickly, while grandparents tend to change more slowly and are more likely to grow spiritually than physically. Our children and grandchildren often move us to new levels of understanding. The growth chart on the side of the kitchen cupboards attests that our 13-year-old granddaughter is now taller than my bride. Another child grew three inches this year and will inevitably eclipse my bride’s 5ft 2-inch stature. My bride thought this was fake news, but the facts say otherwise. For New Year’s, I resolved to try new interests and hobbies. I never thought of becoming a manicurist or nail technician; however, fate forced the role on me.

Our eleven-year-old granddaughter saved her Christmas money and booked an appointment with a nail technician while visiting us. While driving to Almonte for the nail appointment, we started singing in the Van. Our usual repertoire of Raffi songs, On Top of Spaghetti and The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, was soon replaced with songs by Taylor Swift (whoever she is). I don’t know the words for Anti-Hero, Blank Space, or Cruel Summer, and I felt left out of the choir. I took three granddaughters into Almonte, dropped off the excited one with the nail appointment, and took the nine-year-old and the five-year-old shopping at the Hub and other stores on Main Street while the nails were getting done for a princely sum.

We bought a small purse at The Hub with a cat on the front face and found a free Betty and Veronica on the bookrack at the front door, which spurred an interest in finding more. I gave the girls $5.00 each, and we started wandering through the antique and collectables stores. We found one with Archie comics on sale for a dollar apiece. It took an hour for my nine-year-old granddaughter to go through the mountain of Archie, Betty and Veronica books, which she dragged onto the floor and perused to find the best ones. Meanwhile, the five-year-old and I started looking for more cats.

A phenomenon occurs when one older child gets something that a younger child now wants. I call it fake nail syndrome, but it could have a thousand other names.

Fake nail syndrome persists into adulthood. In the Biblical commandment, we are told, “Covet, not your neighbour’s house, wife, his ox or his ass or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” For the record, I don’t covet my neighbour’s ass or fake nails. I do covet his tracker.

When we left the store with our ceramic cat and Betty and Veronica’s books, the nine-year-old said she wanted to get her nails done like her older cousin. She conceded that she had already spent her five dollars but desperately wanted her nails done. I said we would check The Dollar Store on the way home to see if they had fake nails. The Dollar store had a wide selection of nails for $1.50, including glue. She settled on a pack of white nails with tiny flecks of black sprinkled on the top half of the nails. On a full-grown adult, the nails might look attractive. The nails on a nine-year-old with small hands would look like claws on a grizzly bear. The five-year-old thought fake nails were ridiculous. I silently concurred.

I must confess that I have never had fake nails, but I have coloured my nails. While I was a carpenter, I had the opportunity to colour my nails by inadvertently hitting the wrong nail with my hammer. The predominant colours were black, blue, red and purple. As a manicurist, my feminine side would call these colours Black Olive, Aquamarine, Candy Apple, and Hymalain Plum, respectively. Several years ago, a granddaughter painted my toes while I was sleeping on the couch—my one brush with a pedicurist.

When we returned to our place, I found a magnifying glass and read the instructions for applying the nails. One has to place a drop of glue on both the fake and real nail, press the nail on the finger, and wait thirty seconds. I meticulously followed the directions. All the nails stuck onto the fingers and were successful in looking like fake long nails. I felt like a professional manicurist and imagined a new lucrative career as a nail technician.

I could buy the nails at the Dollar store for $1.50, come up with a name like Swamp Nails, charge $51.50, and make a $50 profit on each sale. With my earnings, I could fix the muffler on the Van, take my bride on a trip down south(to Brockville) and go out to dinner somewhere fancy, like The Superior.

Within an hour, my granddaughter found that the long nails interfered with using her phone for texting, made it difficult to do up the buttons on her shirt, and made it impossible to turn the pages on her new Betty and Veronica books. She said,” These nails are always getting in the way.”

When we gathered for supper, I found a pile of used nails on the table. During the meal, we discussed Betty and Veronica, which was likelier to wear fake nails (Veronica), and which one we liked best. I recalled having similar discussions with my friends when I was her age. I liked Betty better than Veronica. I had a blond girlfriend named Betty when I was twelve who (in my mind) looked like the comic book Betty. My granddaughter liked Veronica better because Veronica had an attitude.

That night, like every night the girls are here for a sleepover, I read the girls a story. Instead of Harry Potter, I read excerpts from a Betty and Veronica comic. I thought of how my relationships with my children and grandchildren keep changing. Love is the thread that holds it all together. My friend Joni says it best.

And the seasons, they go round and round.
And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look,
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round in the circle game

Joni Mitchell


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