By Brett Buckner
Special to the Journal
With my legs tingling, my booty having gone numb long ago and beads of sweat gathering along my forehead, I held the small brush in shaking hands, poised only inches above a squirmy, itty-bitty toenail.
The pressure to perform without flaw was crushing. I felt like an accountant forced to perform a tracheotomy in the Amazon with a pen … only at least that patient would be quiet and let me concentrate.
“Do it, Daddy,” Jellybean shouted. “You’re really bad at this.”
As if the globs of blood-red polish smeared on every available surface from ankles to the bathroom’s ceramic tile weren’t evidence enough, I’ve got Captain Obvious bellowing while I try to make the most out of this mess.
Jellybean and I were home sick. Actually, Jellybean was sick and I was just home. As a parting suggestion, My Lovely Wife thought it might be a good idea for me to paint Jellybean’s toe … after trimming said toenails, keeping in mind that I don’t cut my own toenails – choosing instead to use the tear-‘em-off-after-they’ve-gotten-soft-from-the-shower method favored by cavemen.
True, my toenails are kinda gnarly, but who really cares if a dude’s cuticles are well maintained?
But women, and in this case, little girls, are different. Truth be told, I was kinda excited. I mean, I haven’t called in sick (or as a caregiver of the sick) in three years and frankly I think that should come with some sort of certificate of merit. Granted I DO work from home – or at least I did during the aforementioned three years – but still.
So I thought the toe-nail painting exercise would give Jellybean and I something to do to pass the time. Upon further reflection, eight hours of “Pinky Dinky Doo” would’ve been way less stressful, but in parenting, hindsight’s always 20/20.
Thus the venture began and its disastrous result wasn’t totally my fault. Jellybean wanted to paint her own toenails. After the trimming, we compromised – she’d paint one and I’d paint the next with each toenail being a different color.
We weren’t to the first pinky before we managed to dribble purple polish both on her calf, her neck, my favorite Iron Maiden T-shirt and my right ring finger. Also, her middle toes were essentially glued together thanks to a glorious over stroke of Colorstay Revlon administered by yours truly. “Always On” … indeed. Never mind toenail polish remover, I thought I was gonna have to rent a sand-blaster or else be forced to raise a child with webbed feet.
It wasn’t like Jellybean was doing much better (OK, so she’s only four, but they are her toes after all). And with her insistence of painting each toenail a different color, her feet looked like a Jackson Pollack painting.
For the painting of the left foot, I took control, and actually managed to make things worse. Thus the observation of just how bad I was at painting toenails. But as I’ve said before, it’s important for a man to know his faults and limitations. Mine, it turns out, involves Revlon Ever-Growth Toe Nail polish and a trembling hand.
Turns out I just can’t paint under pressure (or much of any other situation … I actually failed art in third grade), especially when working with a child who has the patience of Nero.
But we had fun, and for a Sick Day, that’s about the best medicine a father and daughter stuck at home can hope for.
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org
Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.