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With that last sentence, Mom dropped her head in her hands and spoke in a muffled voice, "I can't do this. I can't!" I told her I was kidding about the whole "bleeding" thing but that some discomfort is possible with a deep-cleaning facial. She told me I was a horrible person but said it with a smile that let me know she was kidding. She began to giggle nervously. Then it was time.

We were led into separate rooms to experience an extensive facial. Mom looked frightened, and her last words to me were, "If I call your name out, can we leave right away?"

"You can wait for me in the Relaxation Room," I said. "I want to get my full treatment."

Almost two hours later, after overwhelming mixtures of natural herbs such as rose hips, apricot, and cucumber; after hot wax, hot towels, cool masks, and soft hands (and a sparkling conversation with my aesthetician Andrea), I stood up, nearly falling from lightheadedness, put my shirt back on, and made my way to the Relaxation Room. My mother had arrived before me. I found her with her head back, eyes closed, and a dreamy smile on her face. Spread out as she was (wearing the robe she had objected to earlier), she looked as though she had been dropped from a tall building onto the soft chair.

"What did you think?" I asked her.

"Oh, my God, it was amazing. It was wonderful, I could really get used to this," she said. She sounded as dreamy as she looked. Breathing deeply, she added, "The smells! Just when I thought I couldn't smell something new, another fruit or flower, one after another, they just kept coming and coming!" I knew what we needed, and it wasn't a cigarette -- only chocolate could deliver the fix we craved.

I took Mom to Extraordinary Desserts, another first for her. As she sipped her vanilla-nut decaf and I made my way through a slice of Viking cake, we talked about things -- really talked about things. Mom asked me if I was happy. I told her, "Yes. Very." And this seemed to brighten her already glowing post-facial visage.

I asked her if she was happy. Looking down at her cup, she said, "I'm starting to be." This honest, insightful answer grabbed my heart and held it tight. "You know," I said, "I'm really looking forward to our next facial."

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