Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Earth Day Getaway

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day Getaway

Whenever I need to "get away," I just get away in my mind. I go to my imaginary spot, where the beach is perfect and the weather is perfect. There's only one bad thing there: The flies! They're terrible!

-- From "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey (Saturday Night Live)

Last week my mother's friend Susan offered me a gift certificate for a lengthy treatment at an expensive resort spa, including a 50-minute massage and a 50-minute facial. She was kind enough to transfer this offer to me before the certificate expired in May for some much-needed stress relief. Quite honestly, the thought of being at a spa makes me more than slightly uncomfortable. It's not normally my cup of tea. However, since Brian and I have vowed to have more fun and step out a bit more, I dared myself to schedule an appointment for Sunday. It's at a resort 20 minutes away, and, frankly, the drive through the rain was even relaxing.

Since traffic was light, I arrived earlier than I expected. I flipped through the brochure in the car, which told me I could utilize the spa bath if I arrived early. I walked through a dark, cave-like lobby to a glossy counter, where a stout woman with a deep voice greeted me enthusiastically and asked if I had visited the spa before. I told her I had not, and she answered, "Well, you're in for a real treat." She held up a key card and a gold locker key on a stretchy red and white wrist band and asked me to follow her into a small locker room. Lockers of dark wood surrounded a simple bench, and there were gorgeous twin sinks fashioned from cobalt bowls of bubbly glass sunk halfway into black granite countertops under a generous mirror. A wicker basket held a hair dryer and curling iron, and various lotions and sprays lined the vanity. She explained that the main locker room was just beyond another wooden door down a short, carpeted hallway past stacks of fluffy, white towels, and that is where I would find toilets, showers, and spa tubs. I opened my locker and found a thin, silky robe with a fluffy terrycloth lining and black spa slippers. I shed everything I was wearing and slipped into the provided attire. I padded down the hallway and slid my key card through the slot on the door, which opened with a clunk. I stepped into a softly lit hallway with a hard floor like black rock. Frosted doors opened into single glass showers, and a row of wooden doors opened to reveal toilets. There were more dark rooms of lockers at the end of the hallway, and I saw only a few women milling about in robes like mine, silent. Their obviously normally perfectly coiffed hair was swirled into fantastic, gravity-defying bed head sculptures from lying on tables and receiving various body treatments involving oils and sprays. I passed a glossy, black panel of glass with a metal handle and identified it as the entrance to the steam room. No thanks. My icy Scandinavian genes won't allow me to enter anything that resembles an oven in any fashion. Further down the hallway I found a metal gate, over which I could see a large, dark room with an empty sea foam green tub glowing in the center. I hurried back into the locker room to retrieve my swimming suit. I was in no rush to be nude in front of God and country. Next time. I returned to unlatch the gate, let myself in, and slipped on my suit. I located a dial on the wall in the darkness and twisted it, sending a loud rush of bubbles from hidden jets shooting into the water. I slowly descended the stairs into the large tub and faced the back wall of the room, letting the hot water envelop my body to my chin. The room was designed to look like a desert setting. A wall of rocks jutted up above me as if I sat at the bottom of a canyon, above which the wall was painted as if it was twilight in soft blues, purples, and finally black. Pinpoints of light twinkled in the dark ceiling like stars. Well, half of them did, anyway. Soft music played above the sound of the dissolving foam on the surface of the water. I thought of Erik at therapy, and I kicked my feet in his honor. I pierced the foamy surface with my freshly-painted scarlet toenails and smiled to myself. Time to let it all go now. No more therapy. No more stress. No more work. Usually after five minutes of hot water, I'm done, but I tiptoed out of the tub twice to reset the timer for more bubbles. When the clock in the hallway above the gate told me I had 10 minutes before my appointment, I searched for an empty glass booth across the hallway and quickly peeled my wet suit off and rinsed chlorine off my skin. I let myself back into the private locker room and ventured out the front door, across another frighteningly public hallway, and through a set of giant frosted glass doors to the spa, where light came through the majority of the ceiling. The girl at the desk verified my identity and directed me through another set of frosted glass doors into the relaxation room, a spacious but more intimate-feeling place decorated in shades of taupe. A cabinet on one end of the room held two types of natural teas and ice water. I poured some light amber tea into a thick glass cup without a handle. I sank into a chunky, soft armchair and put my feet up on an ottoman. I relaxed with my tea for maybe five minutes before I retrieved the slightly outdated copy of Newsweek by my feet. I began reading an article on Ken Kesey and J.D. Salinger but was interrupted by a man who looked remarkably like a member of the janitorial staff. His hair was disheveled, and he wore a taupe-colored jumpsuit that reminded me of a lion tamer. He said, "Nancy?" The woman at the other end of the room silently sipping her tea stood with me. He said, "Massage and facial Nancy?" I nodded, and she sat back down, looking slightly irritated. I win. He placed a hand firmly on my back, guiding me out of the room down yet another hallway lined with small rooms full of soft lighting, tables, and towels. He demonstrated a horribly pronounced limp. We entered one of the rooms with a massage table in the center. He turned down the lights and left me to slip off my robe and slippers. I climbed onto the table and slid under a crisp sheet and a thin blanket. To be completely honest, I am not one-hundred percent comfortable with a stranger touching me, let alone one of the male variety while I'm completely naked. He returned, and I took a deep breath. We chatted briefly before he massaged every part of me that was legal in this particular setting, starting with my toes and ending up with his fingers in my hair. I was jiggled violently, stretched, and poked. He successfully popped my back by contorting my body into a pretzel. It was fabulous. My favorite part was the work he did on my hands and wrists. I voiced my approval, and he smiled.

After the massage, I slipped back into my robe and slippers and met my masseur in the hallway. He offered me a clear plastic cup of water. We said our goodbyes, and I again made myself at home in my chair in the relaxation room before my next treatment. I was soon greeted by a 30-year-old woman named Melissa. She was petite, adorable, and soft-spoken. Her eyebrows were impeccable arches, making her look a little surprised at all times. And no creepy jumpsuit. She offered her miniature hand to me with a purposefully limp wrist and made me feel instantly very large and masculine looking down at her. I suddenly felt like her prom date. She led me into a room identical to the one where I had my massage. There was a rock slab on the wall covered in a silent sheen of slowly descending water. She left me to undress, don a taupe terrycloth coverup, and slip into bed again. She returned and began examining my skin, asking me what my concerns were. I laughed. I may hate everything else about me, but I'll never hate my porcelain skin. I do nothing to it except apply a moisturizer with sunscreen each morning and avoid the sun like the plague. I don't even wash my makeup off until the next morning. Bad girl! Of course, I didn't admit to that degree of neglect. She assessed my pores and epidermis and began applying essential oils to my face, neck, and chest. She named them all as she went. Geranium. Rosemary. Eucalyptus. The eucalyptus brought back a flood of childhood memories of having a cold and being tucked into bed with Vicks VapoRub in a shiny smear under my nose. As the floral scents wafted to me, I imagined myself standing in a bright garden breathing warm, humid air scented with green, living things. The Native American music gave way to more New Age sounds, and I scolded myself for letting my relaxation break long enough to allow my brain to begin its usual barrage of ridiculous and silent comments. As the sound of distant harps and flutes washed over me, I could hear one of my synapses whisper, "And now for Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey." I ignored this rudeness and pretended I was an adult with one single, sane personality for the lovely Melissa's benefit. She applied a mild skin peel and yet more oils, massaging me without a break. After I was good and greasy, she applied a mud mask with a wide paintbrush. I felt like a glorious work of art. Every part of my body, whether I liked it or not, felt cared for and honored. No room for modesty here. If the masseur had forgotten to caress anything, Melissa had it covered. Even my earlobes were tended to. I heard the door to some sort of warming appliance open, and hot, scented towels were applied to acres of my exposed skin, after which heated obsidian rocks were gently but firmly dragged over my slick face in a mysterious ritual.

After two and one-half nonstop hours of having people tend to me, I was ready to collapse. It was exhausting in a way, yet my body felt wonderful. My face, freed of those extra pesky few outer layers of skin, glowed as if I had been slapped. Every muscle sighed with relief, and my hands, which formerly ached from hours of work, were loose again.

Would I go to a spa again? Most definitely.

Is it still slightly outside of my comfort zone? Absolutely.

However, there's just no denying it was the most fun I ever had in public without my underwear.

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Blogger Kerry said...

Again I am reminded what an amazing writer you are.. I felt like I was with you without the glorious treatment. I have been sitting on two gift certificates for a massage and pedicure and now I PROMISE to make my appointments this week. You inspire me :)

6:05 PM  
Blogger Kim, Grandma to Ava,ws said...

Did I NOT tell you it would be heavenly?? Good for you--a little Nancy time was definitely in order!

I know how you feel about leaving your comfort zone. Public nudity takes me right back to the horrors of high school gym class. But the massage....worth it.

8:57 PM  
Anonymous Aspen said...

Now I feel a sense of relaxation just reading about it. A day at the spa is in my eyes a little slice of heaven. I wish I had porcelain skin! Too many days in the sun and in tanning beds. Opps, it was a great idea at the time! I hardly ever wash my face too. So so bad!

Glad you had a great day to relax. So jealous!

10:12 AM  
Blogger Every minute counts.... said...

I recieved my first massage a few months ago. I am totally with you on the public nudity. I didn't even want to have anything but my back massaged...when she got to my face and neck I was so relaxed I forgot all about my insecurities.

You are a beautiful writer. Kerry is right, I felt like I was there too! i am glad you got some time to yourself. Maybe that's where we should meet! We should have a "mom's day" at a spa...problem is we live so far away from each other. Do you think we could find a camp ground for our campers with a spa nearby? How much fun would that be though!!


10:44 AM  
Blogger kathi said...

Girl, I feel a little bit like I just went through this, and it was wonderful. I love the way you tell a tale!

I had a few spa treatments on a cruise a few years ago, and as uncomfortable as I was with it at times (yup, outside my comfort zone) I still LOVED it.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Teresa & Shawn said...

Love your last sentence!!

I love going to the spa. I am totally not a material girl or high-maintenance girl, which may be why I love being pampered at the spa. Especially now that I can't see my feet, I NEED a pedicure! I am glad you went out of your comfort zone to enjoy yourself. See what a fabulous time you had!! You deserve it!

Umm.... Kerry... I will take your spa gift certificates if you want! No drive too far for me!!

1:26 PM  
Blogger Lizard Eater said...

Tag. You're nominated for a Thinking Blog award.


9:24 PM  
Blogger Rosemarie said...

Thanks for the memories! Hubby's annual corporate Christmas parties at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California…sweet! I was finally able to sample how the super-rich live, and are pampered to no end.

7:01 AM  

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