Personal journal of a Christian woman
Childhood memory
Published on January 14, 2004 By wvjcgirl In Misc

Have you ever been trapped in a cramped space with an unbearably annoying person for hours on end? I have, and her name was Beulah. As a child, my parents were involved with a religion that required each member of the congregation to take their entire family door-to-door every Saturday. In the event of bad weather the children were often left in the car to be supervised by the oldest member of the car group, and as we lived in the ‘almost always raining’ Pacific Northwest, my brother and I spent most of our childhood Saturdays sitting in the faithful presence of an elderly widow named Beulah. She had several eccentricities that had earned her the privilege of being encouraged to leave the other car groups, such as her fingernail polish rituals, her false teeth tricks, and last but not least, her drum roll activities.

Her ability to chew off her Sally Hanson’s Shocking Pink fingernail polish in the allotted time between houses was an astonishing art form, really. Door-to-door rules allowed a maximum of one hour at each door, and my parents were amazingly punctual. As soon as our shiny new wood paneled Chevy station wagon pulled to a leisurely stop on the curb and the front car doors creaked open, Beulah would swiftly lift the first fingernail of the right index finger to her mouth and begin to nibble and gnaw. As she completed her task, she would carefully survey her handiwork, and then finish off any offending specks of polish that may have escaped her first attempt. With a look of mild contempt, she would then move on to the next finger. This would go on until all of the offending substances were sufficiently removed from her nails, which would miraculously coincide with the familiar creak of my parent’s car doors opening. I can still hear the gnawing sound of Beulah’s false teeth working away at that fingernail polish. As my parents scrawled notes of their visit to the door in the front seat, Beulah would meticulously repaint her nails, oblivious to the effect of the overpowering fumes on the rest of the car group, and thanks to Sally Hanson quick dry polish, have them ready in time for the next door.

After what seemed like forever in the stifling confinement of the steamy station wagon, Beulah would break the monotony by switching to her second Saturday ritual: playing with her false teeth. I suppose the remnants of stray polish may have gotten between her teeth and gums, and maybe she did not want to frighten us by removing her teeth completely, but whatever the reason Beulah would begin to loosen her top set of teeth and do this weird thing with her lips. She would pull them back so that her teeth could slip down and then she would just move the entire arrangement around into an assortment of facial contortions, causing a swishing and clacking noise to emanate from her mouth. Every once in awhile she would find a stray fleck of shocking pink polish and spit it onto the floor. She would then repeat the repulsive process with her bottom row of teeth. When she had completed this brief but effective decontamination process, she would then look over at my brother and I as if to notice us for the first time. Sometimes she would try to strike up a conversation with us, but usually she just moved right in to the conclusion of her Saturday rituals: the drum roll.

The drum roll involved one final coat of Sally Hanson’s Shocking Pink nail polish. After carefully applying the outlandish fingernail polish to all ten fingernails, Beulah would restrain herself from chewing them by studying the slow drizzle of the raindrops on her window. After a few minutes, she would check her well-worn leather watch, and cautiously tap one shocking pink fingernail on the tan vinyl armrest of her car door. Confident that they were dry, she would take her hand closest to the armrest, lower her nails to just above the rest, and begin the drum roll. She always started with the pinkie nail and worked her way rapidly to the index finger repeatedly until I thought I would scream. Unaware of the anxiety inducing effect her neurotic behavior had on her two young charges, Beulah would stare aimlessly out the window as her shocking pink fingernails kept time to the rhythm of the rain beating on the top of the roof of the station wagon.

I often wondered what Beulah was thinking during her fingernail rituals. As I watched her with a mounting irritation that grew stronger each Saturday, I also wondered why it was so important to remove all the fingernail polish from her fingernails, but okay to abandon a large collection of gnawed shocking pink chips all over her side of the car. As I preformed my Saturday afternoon chore of vacuuming out the back of the car I vowed never to wear shocking pink fingernail polish, and to this day I rarely wear any fingernail polish at all!

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