Sunday, July 11, 2010

From long ago

      As a teenager I used to do my mother's hair. It's been a  long time  now. People really don't do hair anything like this anymore.

      We would go down into the basement. She would sit in a painted celery green chair at a table with a plastic flannel backed tablecloth . (She painted almost everything celery green.  I used to dislike it because there was SO MUCH of it at our house. Of course, now I am drawn to it).      

     She was the hairdressee and I was the hairdresser.
A few times a year we'd do a perm.  I remember that nasty smell.

    Most often we'd do a color, or just a wash and a set. It was a time to bond. Always in the evening. And always just us two.
     I'd shampoo and curl her wet hair in the little pink plastic-snap-together curlers or the steel -colored metal clips if she wanted waves. She would sit under the giant General Electric expanding "bouffant"  cap that looked like it was hooked up to a vacuum cleaner. It blew out hot air. It had a round stwardess looking carrying case and was portable as long as you didn't go farther than the electric cord allowed . You looked like an alien gunslinger.

( To see a picture of the exact same one we had go to

     After my mom's hair was dry,  out came the curlers and I'd comb her soft hair. No hair products, no spray, no high fashion . Simple and pretty.
     Every Saturday, as soon as I would come home from work, I would do her nails. She would hardly let me get out of my uniform. It had to be right now. Nothing fancy. A soaking, a filing and of course her favorite pale pink chiffon colored laquer. I had to be careful of her right hand forefinger that was mangled in her time as a prisoner of war. I never knew how to make it look pretty. and she always had to touch it up herself.

     And every once in a while, I gave my father a manicure too. I filed his nails and rubbed lots of lotion on his dry construction worker rough hands.

    We have put aside the details of grooming and bonding others, our family and friends. We go to professionals that do a marvelously wonderful job. But in that process we have lost a chance to make a memory with those closest to us. Like animals in the wild, grooming each other is a natural behavior. We'd  have idle time for conversation. To open the heart and speak the mind. Or times of quiet to contemplate a prior disagreement and then a coming around.

     Funny, I never minded doing those things.  I never loved doing them either. It was a part of what we did and who we are.