My mother, the Green Hornet, and other notes of love

Are you still feeling the glow of Mother’s Day? It was a glorious brunch filled day at the Pfister this past Sunday when good sons and daughters showered their moms with well deserved adoration.

Me? I was out of town, there and I’m not 100% certain that my Mom even had a good cup of coffee.

Lest you think I’m a terrible son, you should know that I did manage to arrange an early Mother’s Day lunch at the Café at the Pfister with my mother Judy. She’s a rock star of motherdom, and I wanted to make sure I had at least bought her a salad.

I also had an ulterior motive for our lunch date. My Mom has a great Pfister story that I really wanted to hear told to me at the scene-of-the–crime, as it were. This story is part of my family’s legend and lore, and I’m sure for those folks who were around the day it happened some 35 years ago, it’s still a memorable moment.

My wife Paula (a woman who is in the Top 2 of all-time great mothers on my “Mother’s I Love” List) was also included in our celebration of good mothers bread breaking because she somehow had never heard the story, and I’m also just rather fond of lunching with her.

My mom, Paula and I settled into a table in the Café right along the windows. It had been years since my mom had been to the Pfister, and as we took our seats she looked out the window as if looking back in time.

“It happened right out there,” said mom gazing at parked cars on the street. “Right in front of all the cab drivers. They had a good laugh.”

Over the years I’ve thought and thought about my mom’s story, and I’ve considered how different endings could have changed the course of my life in some pretty drastic ways. We’ve certainly laughed about it all over the years, but listening to my mom tell my wife the story put the whole thing in perspective for me once again and makes me think that maybe my mom had a guardian angel watching over her as she exited our family car to have the most eventful day ever getting her hair done in the Janice Salon at the Pfister (which has now blossomed into the full service WELL Spa® + Salon).

Paula leaned in as my mom recalled the day long ago when pants legs were flared and the music of your life had a disco beat. I was about 10-years-old and my brother was a mere toddler as my mom dropped us at a neighbor’s house so she could drive downtown to the Pfister to get her hair done, taking a well deserved break from her job at that time as a stay-at-home mom. We were a one car family back then, and my hard working father took the bus to work everyday as a tax attorney in a downtown office building a mere few blocks away from the Pfister.

Our family car was an AMC Green Hornet. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it did the job of getting us around town.

Green Hornet_May 11 2015
The AMC Green Hornet. Style, class, distinction…meh.

It also proved to be reliable for shuttling us back and forth to visit our family in upstate New York, a trip we made for the Christmas holiday and summers. That car was steady, and on our family’s modest budget it was a more than a-okay set of wheels.

Mom parked the Green Hornet on Jefferson Street right across from the lineup of cabs servicing Pfister guests in need of a ride around town. She filled her meter, dashed into the hotel, and went into the basement salon for a nice hairdo tune up.

As soon as she got settled in her stylist’s chair, someone rushed into the salon and said, “There’s a car on fire across the street!”

My mom gulped hard, panicked knowing that she herself had parked right across the street. Hoping that she heard red or orange or even brown, she asked, “What color is the car?”

“Blue,” answered the town crier who had given the car- -on-fire report. “It’s a blue car, and it’s up in flames.”

Blue was a perfectly fine color as far as my mother was concerned. It wasn’t green, the color of our sweet little ride, so she relaxed believing there was no need for concern and sunk into the stylist’s chair for one of the stunning cuts she always received, classic looker that she has always been.

As mom made her way out onto the street freshly coiffed, the news of the burning car had almost vanished from her thoughts. That is until she pulled her keys out of her purse and was stymied about how to unlock our AMC Green Hornet that was now charred and smoking parked tightly against the curb. Whether or not a Green Hornet burns blue when it bursts into flames, there had clearly been a mix up in making the announcement.

The cab drivers nearby had been waiting to see who the poor sucker was who owned the car. They told my mom that the moment she had walked into the lobby at the Pfister, flames had shot up from under the hood of the car. Had this happened a few moments earlier, my mom would have had no need for a cut and shampoo but my brother, dad and I might have had a great and powerful need for another lady who did a damned fine job of keeping us all together. It was, to say the least, the best bad timing my mother ever had.

My mom tells of walking to my dad’s office and announcing to my father that the car had burned up and that the fire department had smashed the driver’s side window when putting the fire out. I can only imagine the look on my dad’s face when my mom showed up that day to tell him that their only car was out of commission.

But here’s what I love about this story and my parents pluck and determination—we kept that car. My parents did what they could with the means that they had, and I’m happy to report that we had that little AMC for another couple of years. It even made the trip to upstate New York for Christmas a few months after the blaze. Of course, my brother and I huddled under blankets and my dad drove with mittens because heat rarely came from the dashboard after the accident.

Paula, my mother and I chuckled about it all over our salads, thinking about how crazy it was for my mom the moment she made her horrible discovery. I’m gladder than glad that no one, most of all, my mom, was hurt back in the day. I’m also proud to say that I know that standing before that smoldering Green Hornet in the afternoon sun nearly 40 years ago, my mom’s hair looked amazing.

Quietude

The first thing seized is the nose. The smell is, at once, familiar and exotic: chocolate, ginger, hyacinth, grandma’s house and ocean breeze. This must be the scent of ambrosia.

Next, the eyes take in the organic symmetry of the room: open and clean lines, recessed nooks and uncluttered walls, multiple sitting areas, oversized planters and ottoman.  The space is bathed in comforting tones of caramel and sand. Soft leather.  Textured fabrics. Brushed metals. Polished glass. The décor is resplendent refined, the livable chic of a Park Avenue apartment (or, I should say, how I imagine a Park Avenue apartment).

I’m in the waiting area for the Well Spa + Salon. One woman is waiting with me.  She is in a sitting area closer to the entrance,  pressing the keypad of her cell phone.  She’s cozy on her leather island and I’m comfy on mine.

A tall woman with the angular limbs of a runway model appears from a hallway. She is dressed in slim black pants and a loose black blouse draping from one shoulder.  Her heels snap rhythms against the hardwood.

“Collette?” she asks.  The cell phone woman is ushered from her private island into the salon behind a frosted glass door.

A young guy with a high and fanning mohawk saunters through the waiting room, his oil dispenser hooked onto one of his belt loops. His eyes face ahead of him, but he wears a faint smile, like it’s carrying a lingering joke. More therapists and stylists criss cross the waiting room: a short, dark-haired woman; a tall, pregnant blonde; a thick-hipped brunette; an average-in-every-way soccer mom; a long sculpted ponytail.  They all wear black. They all wear pleasant expressions. They all move swiftly. What’s most notable, however, is how they all make minimal eye contact.  Each passes with the quiet and deliberateness of a river ebb.

As each guest arrives, I wanted to ask a battery of questions, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to disturb this shared quietude to ask whether this spa trip was a ritual or a special treat. If there was a specific stressor they hoped to have kneaded from beneath their skin. If they were still searching for a stylist to call their very own. Did the therapists approach each landscape of skin with a different sense of adventure. How do they relax when they’re not shepherding clients into zen?

Years ago, I remember sitting in a nail shop, my feet massaged by bubbling jets and my nails drying in painted gloss. The salon hummed with luxuriating customers until one voice began to peel away the soothing ease.

He was perched in the high chair next to me, his girlfriend next to him. One after the other, to seemingly no one in particular, he lobbed commentary about the warm water, the antibacterial spray to his toes, the antics playing out on television, the storm forecast, etc.  I’m sure the couples’ pedicure was a great idea when his girlfriend first thought of it.

“First time?” I finally asked.

He nodded, broad smile.

“Very different from the barber shop,” I said, smiling back.  “You get to just sit back and relax.”

He looked around. The technicians and their clients were leaning in close to trade quiet conversations, if they spoke at all; a few customers bantered lightly across aisles; some murmured into cell phones; most flipped through magazines, sat quietly or gazed up to the television. Understanding dawned on my neighbors’ face. He leaned back and embraced the quiet.

Once again, here in the Well Spa, I share a rich silence with strangers. It feels sacred. Or, maybe, this “right now” is the blessing. Our intersection of lives might have in common a precocious toddler, a fiesty dog, a new lease, an ailing friend or nothing at all.

I retreat into my notebook, welcoming the ease of not having to fill my mouth with words or drawing reluctant sounds from someone else’s. We are cocooned here, soothed with calming sights and smells, cradled in a suspended stillness.  Though I won’t be guided into the skilled hands of a masseuse or a stylist as I leave the waiting room, I ascend the staircase into the hotel lobby feeling wholly renewed.

Elizabeth’s Tips: Three steps to Healthy Feet

Let the team at WELL Spa us help you take care of your tootsies.

Here are three easy steps to healthy feet.

1) Always dry your feet well after showering and check between your toes for cracks and dryness, which allows bacteria to grow, increasing the risk of infection.

2) Be sure to remove nail polish that is older than four weeks, or as soon as the polish starts to chip. Water may get trapped between the nail and the polish, creating the perfect environment for bacteria, fungus and dryness of the nail.

3) Moisturize your feet every night. This prevents problems with dry, cracked heels and peeling cuticles.

Don’t forget! Save 20% on oils and lotions in the Gift Shop including SpaRitual® Sole MateTM Hydrating Foot Balm through June 30, 2011.

Get your Feet in Check at WELL Spa + Salon