Sunday, 28 June 2015

Brace Update 1: Treatment Salon

Her arms and thighs are bruised from Humatrope injections
Treatment Salon is open July, June, Thursday, all kinds of days, and September. Can I give you the treatment?

I hadn't intended on receiving a treatment. I had only wanted to ensure her hair was properly washed; she is only 8, and she has a lot of hair.

The Treatment begins with a back wash, using a sizable slice of gorgeously smelly soap - given to her by three enraptured sales clerks at a recent visit to Lush. We had gone there to purchase gifts for friends in Tokyo.

It wasn't busy, and they were following her as she transversed the store, soberly smelling every sample, and occasionally offering brief, decisive comments: Good! So-so (with horizontal wobble of the hand). Woohoo; that's bad! The staff weighed in on favourite scents and products. One gave her an arm massage: she was pleased. The second attempted to impress her with a suds-making demonstration: she was gracious. The third indulgently endured a lengthy series of semi-personal questions: Do you have a dog? Do you have a fish? Do you have a mother? Do you have a sister? Is she nice? Does she work here?

To give her the soap was a unanimous decision. She sniffed it deeply, thanked them, and we left. Within steps she spied the next befriending opportunity, and was off: Hi-can-I-pat-your-dog?

I float in the background of these conversations, enjoying her pure gregariousness - devoid of artifice, or any agenda other than to connect with dogs and people, and to smell things. She loves to smell things. She confirms things by their smell: flowers in the neighbourhood; product in the hair; food in the store. She sniffs the cutting board: Watch the knife! She sniffs the pan: Get your face away from the stove! She regularly sniffs me, sidling up as though to hug me, but never quite; just holding her nose very, very close. Complete stillness; only the scent exists. She is truly in the moment... until I shatter that moment with an uninvited hug.

Her hugs! I just don't get enough! Short, squeezy ones, our whole bodies squashed deliciously together - her crazy hair in my face.  Or slow, drapey ones, after dinner, on my chair, her cheek on mine, eyes closed. I sigh her name. She sighs back. Her hugs are blissful - and rare.

Not symmetrical - the brace over-corrects the curve,
pushing it back the opposite direction
For me, this has been the biggest impact of her wearing the scoliosis brace. Her hugs – when they come - are no longer huggy; they are rigid and bumpy and hard. Snuggling and wrestling with her can cause bruising! I look forward to the one hour each day we remove her brace, hoping for the opportunity for an un-armoured hug. When part-way through her shampoo she offered me the Treatment, of course I stepped into her salon! And she was sharing her special soap - this would be Treatment, indeed.

The substantial lathering is followed by a delicate scrub with an abrasive, pink cloth. Next: scratching fingers - soft and quick and just enough on the raspy side of ticklish to be delightful. This has the added bonus of softening the filth under her fingernails, an on-going issue for a girl who loves worms, making potions from garden plants, water and soil, and wearing polish on long nails.

Rinse, dry off, clean nails, put on special undershirt and brace, have injection, brush teeth. We retire to her bed, where treatment continues with a skiff of coconut oil, and ends, eyes closed, smiling, with us tangled together like two sleeping cats in a basket.

I extricate myself carefully, her undershirt-clad chest slowly falling, then rising to the confines of the body jacket: greenish-gray, 101-Dalmatian-printed, Velcro-secured. From a distance it looks like a slightly wonky, calico-print corset, stretching from pits to tailbone, trussed up in front. It wouldn't look out of place with a can-can skirt. It's even kind of cute. She thinks so, too.

I am delighted and relieved that, after the initial weeks of sore, itchy, red, dry skin, uncomfortable tightness, worrying that classmates might tease, and sadness, she has taken to wearing the brace just fine. Better than fine: one recent bedtime, all three special, seamless undershirts being still in the dryer, she became very upset at the suggestion she sleep without it: Don't you know that my back is growing at night, and I have to wear it every night? Every single night! She's committed, with all her might.

I kiss her eyes and cheeks, stare at her dignified, sleeping face and plan a Treatment Salon of my own: it will start with a trip to someplace full of wonderfully-scented samples for her to sniff, and end, I hope, with a jumble of legs and arms and a happy, slumbering, extraordinary girl. This time she gets the treatment.

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