Turning meals into dwelling cures is my love language

I saw the dry patches dissolve. Her head was filled with thick, toffee colored hair, and I took great pride in my ability to take care of her. In the midst of my depression, it was one of my first glimpses into overwhelming joy.

Although my family stayed healthy during this global pandemic, it was a real challenge. Stress and fear are high, money was scarce and our time outside the home was limited. But it also crystallized the value of my homemade preparations – they have become a deep bond and essential ritual.

If my partner’s face breaks out (probably because I used body soap as a face wash), I cut a stem from our aloe vera plant and scraped the juice into a bowl and mixed in some turmeric. We make ourselves comfortable on the couch so I can lather the orange slime on his face while we watch our favorite show. I also taught him how to make my favorite avocado mask so he can mix it himself and massage it on my face when I’m the one who needs to be pampered.

My sister and I try to lighten our hair with limes, salt, and beer like our aunt did when we were little and spend the summers by her pool. She poured the mixture on our long, chocolate-colored hair, then laid us on a towel so the sun could roast it a lighter shade. We wanted bleached blonde highlights a la Mary Kate and Ashley in “Our Lips Are Sealed,” but we were happy enough with the subtle amber sheen our tips achieved.

That summer, while my daughter was napping, we soaked our hair in the citrus beer blend from our childhood, put on sunscreen, and spread out side by side in the sun. I’m not saying it’s especially good for our hair follicles, but the relaxation and comfort these moments bring me are well worth it.

My cat, Luis Miguel, is also participating. He is the most beautiful orange boy you will ever meet. His beauty isn’t entirely innate though – after a good hairbrush, I use some of the beer mix on him and after a few minutes wash it off on his coat.

Last year I found myself at a beekeeping stall at a farmers market on the outskirts of Austin buying way too much beeswax. I wanted to make my own candles, but the beeswax sat in a dark corner of my pantry for months.

Now that we’re trying to make our household “greener”, I’ve been looking for ways to reduce the plastic and packaging that comes in and out of the house. So the beeswax was converted into lotion bars.

My daughter is almost two now and I put the ingredients on the kitchen table where I can sit while she stands between my legs to help. She stirs herself with a wooden spoon, mixes in oils with the pipette and I help her pour the mixture into the molds. Sometimes we decorate the mixture with petals and the result is a beautiful golden bar that instantly softens when it glides on the skin.

My daughter’s routine is now more and more aligned with mine, so that we sometimes take our nightly bath together in the large tub. After we have dried, we sit in our towels and moisten. She has her own little lotion bar that we shaped into a tiny almond shape that she can easily grab. As I slowly pull my adult lotion bar around my back, both legs up and down and on my knees and shoulders, my daughter takes care of every movement and does it carefully.

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