Posted by Debra Solomon Baker on April 16, 2012
On Friday, at the Wydown Literacy Retreat, I reflected on the word, “Change.” Unexpectedly, I pulled up this long-ago memory.
My mother chopped off my hair.
No, she didn’t grab the shears from the medicine cabinet and start slashing in some insane fit of abuse or rage or revenge like some crazyass mothers do in the movies.
Nope. She just dragged me to the barbershop, threw some dollars at the guy’s belly, and said, get rid of it.
You see, I would stand, lala-ing in the warm shower, swirling the Finesse around and around and around my scalp, passionately degerming my long locks, palms moving in giant circles, scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing.
I would emerge, naked, stripped from that shower, proud of my mastery, only to be met with a tangled mess, a matted monster, my pitiful locks wrestling, sobbing, growling.
Maybe I hated her for dragging me to that barber. Maybe I hated her for her impatience, for her unwillingness to help me brush the disaster, for her Mom-lies about how short hair would look pretty on me. But, really, it was just fourth grade disappointment, not pay-the-therapist-150-bucks-an-hour hatred.
I didn’t look Dorothy Hamill-esque in my new “Dorothy Hamill” haircut. I wasn’t some beauty in iceskating skirts, hair all dazzling. I was a mess, pimples sprouting on my nose, hair colicky and whiny. Strangers tried to push me toward the boy’s bathroom, with their assaulting words that my bathroom was “over there,” directing little Debby to the land of urinals and stalkers.
So, I sit here now, thirtyish years later, twisting my ponytail around my index finger, wondering jeez, when did this happen, when the heck did little Dorothy Hamill become mother to a ten-year-old girl? Impossible, it seems.
And, I sit here twisting my ponytail, remembering how, this past weekend, I snarled at my daughter
to wash it (you haven’t showered in five days)
to brush it. Brush It, BRUSH IT! (look how knotty it is)
to get it out of your face (how can you see?)
to wipe the crumbs off of it (I keep telling you to put it behind your ears while you eat)
Yes, I sit here twisting my ponytail longing to invite Mom to dinner tonight, to share some red wine, to laugh about hair and about parenting and about growing older than either of us ever imagined possible.