When I was a young girl, my mother wanted to grow my hair long. I was towheaded as a child and she wanted my hair to reach my lower back. It was slow going because the hair in our family is fine and exceedingly soft, and even now I can’t grow it past my shoulderblades.
She loved to play with my hair, putting it in braids and plaits, or curling it with a curling iron. Sometimes she put it into small braids when it was still wet, and I slept in them overnight. In the morning, she let out the braids, and my pin-straight hair was full of waves.
Hair is very symbolic to women. It involves significant ritual.
One day, when I was 8 years old, my mother and father had a fight.
My father took me to the hair salon and had the hairdresser cut off all the hair my mother had so carefully cultivated. My new haircut was pixie-short, like Audrey Hepburn’s. I still remember the stylist wincing as she did it, and saying, “Well, she has good bone structure and a long neck; short hair will show it off….”.
I remember the pile of hair on the floor underneath the chair before they swept it up. It was the color of buttered white corn.
My father took me home.
My mother came to pick me up later that afternoon. I ran to her when I heard her car pull up outside.
I’ll never forget the expression on my mother’s face when she saw me; that look of shock and pain. But she did not cry, because my father was standing in the doorway, smiling at her, and my mother is a proud woman.
She waited until she drove us out of the parking lot and down the block, out of his sight, until she stopped the car and burst into tears.
I’m sorry. It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I’m feeling maudlin.