Carpe Diem Y’all by Michele Bernard

Writer, Texan, Semi-interested Sports Fan


pedi.jpg  Glancing at the ceiling, I’m sure Jesus is looking down, shaking his head in defeat, as he recognizes that on this particular Maundy Thursday, I’ve obviously missed the point.  Again.  As I fiddle with buttons activating massage chair rollers, feel them travel up my spine, and dip my feet into the aromatic footbath in preparation for a pedicure and foot massage, I’m sure he’s correct.  Again.  Which begs me to ask :  What more can he expect from one who’s patron saint is Peter? 

  “Color?” the nail technician asks as she girds up her loins and sits before me. 

“No thank you,” I reply, “Clear please.”

She smiles in understanding as she gently lifts and swaddles my foot in toasty oil-infused towels.

The telephone rings.  My nail tech’s grand-daughter answers it.  I see she is concerned.

“What do you mean I have an English as second language issue?” she asks.  I wonder the same as I listen to her crystal clear pronunciations.  She concludes her conversation and hangs up.

Turning to me she asks, “Nails?”

“Yes please,” I reply.  Sunday is Easter. 

She is deep in thought as she files my nails.  Brows knit together, she works in silence.  At my feet, her grandmother does the same as she scrubs winter rough skin from my heels.

In the silence, I think about the church service I will miss this night.  Again.  I remember past footwashing services particularly the one with the homily reminding us that Jesus asks us to do more than one thing.  Remember him through the breaking of bread AND follow his example in behavior with one another. We Episcopalians always remember to eat, yet we sometimes forget to wash our neighbors’ feet.  And God forbid we allow anyone besides a nail tech to touch ours.

I notice a tear form in the corner of the grand-daughter’s eye. 

“Are you alright?” I ask.

“My English professor gave me a C minus on an essay.  She says I have English as second language issues.”  She stops her work and looks at me.  “I’ve been in this country since I was six years old.  Our primary language is English.  I speak English , I think in English, I even dream in English.  I struggle to speak Vietnamese,” she says as she gestures toward her grandmother massaging lotion into my calves.  “How can I have an English as second language issue?  I think my english teacher makes assumptions based on my looks,” she concludes.

“Do you have the paper?” I ask, “I’ll be happy to take a look at it if you like.”

I find it difficult to read the essay.  Not so much from the writing itself, and not even because of the difficult position I sit in, right arm stretched across my body to reach the grand-daughter to my left, or for the jarring vibrations caused by the grandmother as she pounds my calves with tiny fists.  I find it difficult to read for the bright blue circles and cross-outs and long cryptic notes and suggestions written on, over and beside the grand-daughter’s work.  The word “desecrate” comes to mind as I try my best to read through the professor’s grafitti.

“How long has it been since you’ve attended an English class?” I ask.

“Fifteen years,” she replies, “I liked money too much when I was younger.  I didn’t want to go to college.  Now that my children are older, I realize I need a degree so I can be honest when I teach them that a college degree is important.”

“I see no English as second language issues in this paper,” I say, “I see haven’t-taken-an-English-class-in-fifteen-years issues.  Common issues with easy fixes.  I write everyday and I still experience issues.  Every writer I know does.”

“When I’m through, do you mind showing me how I can make this better?” she asks.

“My pleasure,” I respond.

The grandmother looks up.  Smiling she points to my toes.  She’s embellished my clear polish with tiny hand-painted flowers.  My face hurts I’m smiling so big.  This small gesture both honors and humbles me.

The grand-daughter and I move to a workstation in the back of the salon.  I lose track of time as I interpret and explain what I see and teach her how to watch for these issues the next time she sits down to write.

As I leave the salon I look up.  Again.  And thank God that I didn’t miss Maundy Thursday services after all.  Carpe Diem y’all, Michele

Copyright © 2007 Michele Bernard

 612px-giotto_-_scrovegni_-_-30-_-_washing_of_feet.jpgIJohn 13:14-17 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.


April 7, 2007 - Posted by | Blogroll, Episcopalians, Inspiration, Inspirational, Michele's Musings, Writerly Stuff, Writing


  1. Beautiful, Michele.

    Comment by pooks | April 8, 2007 | Reply

  2. Michele,

    Thank you for your beautiful way with words. Yours may have been the best Easter sermon I’ve ever heard.

    Comment by Serena | April 10, 2007 | Reply

  3. Serena and Pooks, I am humbled by your comments, Thank you, Michele

    Comment by Michele Bernard | April 10, 2007 | Reply

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