Okay, it’s not what you think. But first I should fill you in on some gifts I’ve received from my daughters over the years. Mysterious boxes arriving in the mail with items like candles and books, uplifting quotes and interesting tchotchkes. They were shipped three months apart, and I felt like a happy little kid at Christmas. 

They were the best surprise. Not the scary clown waiting for you in the dark, kind. (I used to think I liked the unexpected. I don’t.) These packages of love burst into my life, turning ordinary days into something special.

Last year, thanks to my girls, I attended Master Class online. I learned the art of negotiation from an FBI expert, attended writing classes by Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume and a few others. There were cooking classes, gardening experts…anything I wanted to learn was on there. I also received the gift of Story Worth. I write something about my life each week and my girls will have it turned into a book.

This year’s Mother’s Day gift was a super expensive tinted sunscreen. My regular brand leaves me looking pale and ghostly. This one makes me feel like a movie star. They threw in some  bath bombs and a high end, ultra expensive tube of papaya facial mask. Probably six months worth. 

I’ve tried the mask a few times, dabbing it lightly over my face and leaving it for the two to five recommended minutes. Last night before bed, I decided to give it another go. I gently squeezed the tube and twice the regular amount shot out. Have I said the stuff is expensive? I wasn’t able to push it back in the tube so I slathered it on. Less than five minutes passed before I felt a tingling which quickly morphed into the feeling you’d get holding your face near open flames. I rushed to the bathroom and washed the mask off. It took a while because that stuff adhered like some kind of alien protoplasm. When my face was finally bare, I had to take a step back.

I looked like burn victim Ralph Fiennes in the movie, The English Patient. I felt like him, too. Soaking a wash cloth in cold water, I gently laid it against my fire licked skin. It was so soothing, I wet another and stuck it in the freezer. This went on for the next hour.

 I couldn’t decide if it felt like the kind of burn you get when you forget to use oven mitts, or if it was closer to the worst sunburn possible. Even as the redness slightly receded, I found new discomfort in the tightness of my skin. It was actively shrinking. I could hear it screaming for help as it clung to the bones of my face. ‘What the fuuuuuuuuck!’ was the message my skin cells painfully transmitted as they joined together in a desperate plea. I tried a new technique of lathering myself with a heavy cream before applying another cloth from the freezer. It seemed to work. But all night, I had to sleep on my back. I knew my skin would never survive contact with the pillowcase. It felt so vulnerable, like a billion tiny cells crying as one and blaming me for what I’d put them through.

When I woke in the morning, my skin felt tight but natural. I rushed to the mirror, expecting a miracle. Wrinkles gone, nothing sagging, my nineteen year old face staring back at me. Nope. I looked exactly the same as I did the night before the Great Burning. So, I’m giving the sunscreen ten out of ten. I’m giving the face mask a hearty thumbs down. In the meantime, I’ll creep around with a large hat on and my old 100 proof sunscreen slathered over my vulnerable skin, hiding from the light like a vampire. Fortunately we’re going through a cold spell. There’s always a silver lining to these things.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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