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Sophie at the Salon

posted Wednesday January 22nd, 2014


I don’t remember what my mother said when I told her Sophie had Down syndrome. I don’t remember what Ray said, when he heard the news, or even what I said.

But I will never forget what my sister said.

“Amy will always have someone to get a pedicure with.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear, even though I didn’t know it at the time and even if, technically, it’s not always true. So far, she’s been right.

Annabelle isn’t a sure thing anymore, not since I switched to the cheaper salon where the ladies are “mean” (her words) and the decor isn’t nearly as nice as the nail bar down the street with the velvet seats, chandeliers and continuous loop of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Devil Wears Prada.” Plus, Annabelle prefers her own handiwork.

Sophie, however, is always up for a pedicure. The little salon we go to is pretty dingy and it’s true, most of the employees tend to be all business, but somehow Sophie manages to break that down.

Everyone there knows her name  – it’s like being in a cross between an episode of “Cheers” and a scene from the movie “Steel Magnolias” — and even the grumpiest nail tech smiles when she sees her. True, by the time we leave, everyone (including me) is looking a little weary. But hey, these ladies (and one man) work for tips. And I tip well.

For Sophie, this is not simply about getting her heels buffed and toes painted. This is a real social outing. She marches in and takes her time picking a color (she’s been known to demand 10 different colors for 10 different toes), then requests adjustments on the water temperature and seat height. She grabs the pumice away and does that herself, and spends a long time debating whether to get a flower on her big toes at the end. Then she carefully pads over to the drying section, picks up a magazine, and sits back.

She does not go unnoticed by the other patrons. She is almost 11, but Sophie is still shorter than most kindergarteners; when she opens her mouth, she tends to take people by surprise. One time not long ago, I was getting my nails done on the other side of the salon, a captive, able to hear Sophie’s incessant (usually polite) demands but unable to do much about them. (Let’s face it, even when I tell her point blank to stop, she usually refuses.)

So I sat quietly, cringing a little and observing the action from across the room. Others were watching too.

“Oh yes, I’ve seen her here before,” I overheard an older woman say to her friend. “She’s like a teeny tiny adult.”

And in a way, in the pedicure chair, Sophie  is just like everyone else. The other day she asked one patron for advice on what to do in Maui this summer (after eavesdropping on her conversation) and had a 10 minute conversation with another about Tim Gunn’s new show. After discussing Gunn, Sophie and her new friend flipped through a fashion magazine; Sophie pronounced most of the outfits “hideous.”

The woman raised her eyebrows when I told her Sophie was 10 and a half.

“Really?” she asked.

“Well, yeah,” I said. “We don’t have a particularly tall family, and people with Down syndrome tend to be really short.”

“She has Down syndrome?” the woman said, looking surprised. “I couldn’t tell.”

Every time, just when we’re on the verge of overstaying our welcome, suddenly  my nails are finished, Sophie’s toes are dry, and it’s time to go. Any time I sneak in by myself for a quick touch up, everyone asks where Sophie is; they seem to genuinely miss her.

Or maybe it’s the tips.

My sister was in town with her family over the holidays, wearing flip flops (because it’s Phoenix) and complaining about her toes. My mom and I thought we should take all the girls to see “Frozen” (again) but in the end, Sophie and her Aunt Jenny took off on their own. Pedicures, of course.

They had a great time.



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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

3 Responses to “Sophie at the Salon”

  1. Amy …..
    This is truly lovley:)

    Love youXO

  2. Wonderful post about Sophie getting a pedicure. When you guys come to Bainbridge Island, perhaps she’d like a session with the person I go to. She’d be sitting on a throne with her feet in bubbles. I can picture it. They’d enjoy each other.

  3. I wish there was a Sophie at my nail salon.

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