The Sisters’ Story

I have never “reblogged” one of my own posts before, but here I am, on the eve of Mother’s Day, thinking I should write something about my mother, and I just ran across this post I wrote back in 2012. My mother is long dead; the women I write about here were still around at the time this piece was written. One of them, Mother’s best friend, Eleanor, died not too long ago, which makes this piece, especially the ending, all the more poignant for me. So Mother, this is for remembering you: your beauty, your fortitude, your laughter, your sadness. Your love for my dad and for me. Your sacrifices. Your truth.

Hair Today—Gone Tomorrow?

When my husband needs a haircut, he says, “I think I’ll go get a haircut.” He breezes out the door and is back in an hour.

For me it’s a life-altering decision.

When I’m dissatisfied with my hair, it colors my entire life (pun intended). Bad hair puts me in a mood to match. So, back in the fall, when the haircuts weren’t working, they left me in a perpetual state of agitation.

But oh, change is tough. A woman develops loyalty to whoever puts scissors to her hair, let alone colors it, and rightfully so. Talk about trust issues. When the time comes for a change, it feels like betrayal. Just asking my friends for recommendations or browsing the yellow pages or scouting salons online felt like I was sneaking around.

Drastic measures

Changing hairdressers requires much soul-searching and justification, tallying grievances that make a drastic move not only desirable but also necessary. Here are a few of mine:

  • S/he cut it too short.
  • S/he didn’t cut it short enough.
  • S/he was running late.
  • S/he was distracted.
  • S/he talked too much.
  • S/he didn’t listen to what I said I wanted.

And so, after agonizing for weeks and then acting on a whim (if I didn’t act on a whim I would never, ever pick up the phone), I called a hair stylist a friend had recommended. I figured it would be weeks before I could get in, but NO. He had an opening the following Saturday. “Noon,” he said.

“Noon?” I repeated, stupidly.

“Yes. Noon.”

“I’ll take it,” I said.

For two nights before that appointment, I had nightmares about haircuts gone bad. I vacillated between guilt and terror. What had I done? Well, I had betrayed a perfectly good hair stylist, that’s what.

It’s only hair.           

When Saturday came, armed with my photo of Helen Mirren with short hair, I set out. I gripped the steering wheel hard. I had sweaty palms. It felt like a trip to the dentist. I told myself, it’s only hair. 

The salon was small and quiet, only a couple of customers on Saturday at noon. I tried to appear nonchalant, like someone who tries out a new hair stylist every other month or so, but I must have been ashen because the stylist zeroed right in on my case of nerves.

“It’s going to be okay,” s/he said, like a parent reassuring a kid with a skinned knee.

I considered bolting, but I didn’t. I wondered, sitting there, waiting, why haircuts make me so nervous. And then I remembered.

The monstrous machine

The Bad Perm
The Bad Perm

When I was a little girl, I had really pretty hair. In most photographs, it’s shiny and clean and nicely curled, usually with a big bow. But my mother must have gotten tired of taking care of it. That’s the only explanation I can fathom for why, when I was three, maybe going on four, she took me to the beauty parlor over the drugstore, up the same stairs to where the doctor’s office was. I had been in that beauty shop before with my mother. Somebody had probably trimmed my hair. I’d seen women sit under the permanent wave machine, a monster of a thing with long tentacles that attached to their heads. I’d never dreamed it could happen to me, but that day, it did. My mother apparently wanted my hair short and carefree. Somebody cut my long hair off, and then I sat under that machine, breathing in the awful permanent wave solution fumes, those fumes and fear and humiliation making me cry.

I remember that, when we got home, I refused to look in the mirror. I don’t remember ever looking, although at some point I must have. I couldn’t have avoided mirrors for the long time it took for the awful frizzy perm to grow out. You can see for yourselves in the photo how bad it was. 

What possessed my mother? I have no idea. Whatever it was, she must have felt guilty because by my fifth birthday, my hair was long again, and pretty.

Back to the present

Of course, the encounter with the new stylist wasn’t perfect, either. There were a few problems:

  • S/he was running late.
  • S/he cut it too short.
  • S/he talked too much.
  • S/he didn’t listen to what I said I wanted.

I’ll stick with this stylist for a while, though. After all, I’ve made the break, and making up is just too hard. I’ve already gone back a second time, and this time, I let this new person, this person I hardly know, color my hair. Now that, my friends, is trust. And, would you believe—I like it!

Do you have hair horror stories? If so, share them here!

Counting Words and Milestones

500 Words Challenge logo
500 Words Challenge logo

The second day of the New Year, and here I am, churning out words, mainly because I joined Jeff Goins’ 500 Words a Day Challenge for the month of January. What was I thinking? I’m already a day behind!

I’m late for a couple of reasons:

1. I didn’t know about and sign on for this challenge until last night.

2. I took my fourteen-year-old grandson out to lunch, and we did some post-Christmas shopping (he had a gift card to use), and then I dropped him off for his hitting lesson (he’s a baseball player). I had a great time. I think he did, too.

This child (dare I still call him that?) isn’t a stereotypical adolescent.

We talked. A lot.

We talked about cars. And driving, the next big milestone for him, I suppose. On the way to lunch, we passed a very old Ford Explorer parked on the side of the road not far from his house, and I kidded him, said we could probably buy that for a song and save it for when he drives.

We talked football, both college and pro. I learned that he feels bad for Eli Manning because Eli’s having a bad year.

We talked about dogs: about how great his is, and how he thinks I need one, and what kind to get.

We talked about the city where I live (he lives out in the country, sort of) and what it needs in terms of development. Very sophisticated conversation.

And then we talked family. He asked questions about what his dad was like at fourteen. “Was my dad this tall? Was he thin? What did he like to do?” I learned that he likes our big, chaotic family gatherings on holidays. He enjoys his cousins and would like to know them better. We talked about how, as they all get older, they’ll grow into a different kind of relationship. They’ll be more than cousins; they’ll be friends.

What he doesn’t realize is how quickly that time will come. He’ll be driving before we know it. Having lunch with his grandmother probably won’t be cool then. But he promised me a date in a couple of years—when he’ll be the one to pick me up and take me out to lunch.

All in all, it was a fine afternoon, a great way to start the new year. Time spent that I won’t soon forget. I hope he won’t, either.


Grandsons in action
Grandsons / Gerry Wilson

They grow up, you see, these children and grandchildren. My sons aren’t children anymore, except in my head and heart. I hear their small voices still, calling out in the night. I hear their laughter. I hear their noisy, rowdy selves thundering down the stairs and running through the house and slamming out the back door. I hear their dueling stereos playing across the hall from each other. Now they tower over me. They wrap me in their arms with big bear hugs and kiss my cheek or the top of my head. It seems to me  they hold on a little longer this year than last, maybe because they’re old enough now to know that time goes all too fast.

The same is true of grandchildren. Mine range in age from four months to seventeen years (four teenagers)! They’re all beautiful/handsome, smart, loving, and kind. My husband and I have devoted two door facings to keeping up with their growth. This grandson had me check his height again today. There’s a bit of competition going on with his cousin who’s two years older. This one wants to outstrip the other in the height department, and he just might do it. Give him a couple of years. Give him a blink of time.

Growing up is the natural course of things; it’s what children are supposed to do; it’s what we want for them. Yet it goes too fast.

So this little piece that has now grown well beyond the 500-word target for today is a tribute to “my kids,” grown and otherwise, who make me proud. It’s also a nod to good times and to making good memories.

Because memories are important. Memories last.

My challenge to you: Recall a meaningful conversation or a rare, shared moment. What made it memorable?