Her wavy silver hair flipped up at the ends as she ran her hand through the top of her hair.
“How’s that?” she asked me before we took another selfie.
“Better,” I replied with a smile.
Her hair had always been an issue for her, and finally she was figuring it out after 77 years. I remember telling her on more than one occasion not to cut it so short, but then I would see her and she had cut it down to the quick. Oh, for crying out loud, I would think. She had amazing hair and she was always chopping it off! Until now, she finally convinced a beautician to just trim the ends.
I can still recall my mother when she was young, and how her jet-black hair fell across her shoulders. There were no barrettes to hold it out of her eyes, just maybe a headband occasionally. Thick as a down-filled coat, her heavy curls pulled down upon her back. I loved the smell of it and her.
When we lived in Spain, in the sixties, she had it made up by a hairdresser who came to our house. I couldn’t imagine how so much hair could stay piled up on top of her head. It was brushed and sectioned, teased and bobby-pinned. There must have been ten pounds of hairspray holding it all in place. But gosh, was she beautiful. At night, she wrapped it in layers of toilet paper, like the wrapping of an ancient queen upon her death. Then she would sleep half-sitting up trying to keep herself from crushing it. In the morning, I was always amazed as she unwound the crushed tissue, and there without a hair out of place was my mother’s beautiful hairdo.
As I grew older, so did she. Her hair took on a special accent of its own that always intrigued my friends. From her temple, a stripe of silver began to grow. I often wondered how she felt about that stripe that mimicked the tail of a skunk. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, but she was only in her twenties when it appeared. She never said anything about it. But ironically, it became her and would represent the dynamic person she would become over the years.
I’m not sure when it happened, which came first, but she dyed and cut her hair all off. It was a shock. I suppose she didn’t want that gray strip spreading since she was only in her thirties. She had always had young looking skin, and to have a head of silver would clearly age her beyond her years. So rightly so, she dyed her hair. But to cut it? Oh heavens! Her beautiful curly hair was butchered, leaving her with a type of pixie that was easier to manage for a mother of five. By then I was a teenager and having my mom cut her hair was just something that happened.
I suppose her short hair fit her. With a thin face, hazel eyes and thin bones, she had more energy than six moms combined. She was the ultimate mother, running here and there for every child and every event. I never saw her worry about her hair, it was as if it was just there like her eyebrows or mouth. But still when she kissed me good night, she smelled like my mom.
Then it happened. I was departing the plane in Hawaii, coming home from college for Christmas, when I saw my mother. With arms stretched out and a smile on her face, she ran to greet me. But I had to stop a second to take her in. She had a whole head of silver hair! How could this be? Wasn’t it only six months since I left? I tried to smile, but I was confused. Her soft loving arms wrapped around me and she whispered how she had missed me. Submitting to her, I could smell the sweet scent of home upon her skin and I knew it didn’t matter what color her hair was. She was my mom.
When I got married, my mother was not even forty-five years old. Unlike her, I wore my hair long, determined never to cut it. So, when years had gone by and my mother aged gracefully with time, she grew into her grandmotherly silver hair. And, oh boy, did she have beautiful silver hair. My children loved it along with strangers who marveled at its brilliance. But still, she wore it shorter than she needed to.
Then one year she decided she needed a change. She let it grow like she had never before. She struggled to tame her curls that now had a life of their own. She plastered barrettes above her ears to hold down the heavy strands that threatened to
blind her while she cooked or read. And when she arrived at her granddaughter’s wedding, her long beautiful locks were the talk of the town. How lovely her hair looked against her matching top of silver and blue.
But it wasn’t long before she was letting some crazy beautician chop it all off! I wasn’t happy. It was so gorgeous and free.
To me, her long hair was everything she was as a woman. She was wild and funny, soft and edgy, creative and opinionated, everything I loved about her. Oh, it didn’t say how smart she was or how loyal, but it did say she was a lioness amongst her pride.
And then I realized, after the initial shock, that again, her hair did not make her. She would remain the vivacious woman everyone has known her to be. She is going to continue to be the out-going, full of life person her children and grandchildren know her to be no matter how short she cuts her hair. She’s still going to love her husband. She’s still going to love her children. She’s still going to bebop around town, piddle in her kitchen and babysit grand-dogs. And she is still going to smell like my mom… even when she is putting the peace sign above my head in a perfectly great selfie shot. Because she is and always will be the best mom a girl could ever have…. Hair or no hair.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom…. I love you!