Her hair is longer than I've ever seen it on her head. As a girl, her mom turned her auburn curls into Shirley Temple ringlets that fell down her back, impressing her friends and causing a minor uproar at home. Her dad was a committed Socialist and wondered why his little girl was trying to be more special than all the other little girls in the neighborhood. She remembers the argument. She also remembers loving her curls.
As a young woman, posing for photos with her going-off-to-war brother, the shop owner asked if he could take one just of her. He wanted it for the display in his window. She remembers being surprised by herself every time she walked past the store. Putting herself out there was not her style. Enjoying the celebrity was not how she spent her days. Still, she sits up a little straighter and smiles just a little brighter when she looks at this photo, some seventy years after it was taken
She was a stunner. There's no doubt about it.
Jesse's tall and handsome and charming. G'ma is small and wrinkly and snarky. They are a delightful pair. I sit across the salon, watching him create order out of chaos. He doesn't mind asking the same questions a dozen times. He doesn't make her feel inadequate. The first time he cut her hair, she reminded him that she was older and wiser and knew just what she wanted. He told her that was fine. They were tentative around each other, using me as an intermediary.
Now she scoots her butt back in the shampoo chair, the two of them laughing at her inability to move gracefully and his reluctance to call her ass her ass. She used the word, teasing his propriety and accepting his arm gracefully. She doesn't dwell on what she's lost; she accepts it as reality and deals with it.
I am so going to school on being an old person right now.
Everyone agrees that her hair is gorgeous. It's thick and wavy and a shade of gold and grey that no bottle could ever produce. She used to use a bluing rinse - a term that confused me terribly when I was a child - but now she manages to squeeze out a dollop of Matrix shampoo once a week and feels satisfied. Vanity was never her style; clean and neat was always enough.
Hair in her eyes is annoying; hair on her shoulders is noticeable. "Do you like it?" "I don't dislike it.... what do you think? You decide." And so, I do. A bit of layering, lots of trimming in front and over her ears so she's not annoyed by stray strands, and enough length so that she'll have something to style for the wedding. Even if she can't remember that it's my daughter who will be a bride in four months, her eyes light up at the thought of a party. "You'll be gorgeous," we tell her. "You're such liars... but you can keep talking," is her reply.
And the truth is, she'll be gorgeous in my eyes and frighteningly old in hers. The staff at the pod-castle all agree that she has the most beautiful skin; all she sees are the wrinkles. Her blue eyes sparkle as she catches a grammatical mistake; they still work is her response to the compliment on their beauty.
This is not now nor ever has been a woman who spent a lot of time on how she looked or on how she was put together.Changing fashions meant nothing to her. Maureen, who cut her hair for 35 years before retiring and leaving her bereft, created the same style over and over again, year after year, every six weeks. It was just how she looked.
Muscle memory allowed her to recreate it when we could find a stylist who could give her the basics, but then even that began to disappear. For a while, her hair was a mess. I couldn't find anyone who would follow the contours of her head and the desires of her hair. They tried to make her something she was not. Both she and her tresses resisted mightily. It was a long haul until we found "the one."
It's not only technique that counts, as anyone who has ever frequented a salon will attest. It's the interpersonal chemistry that seals the deal. She may be a transplanted Brooklynite and he a Mexican-American hunk-and-a-half, but they light up the sky as they delight one another "How're you feeling?" Jesse asks and I begin to laugh even before she replies, as I knew she would, "With my fingers!"
Best of all, he's no where near retirement.
She's clacking her dentures and napping as he cuts, waking when he talks then dropping off when he's concentrating on the cut. She knows what to do while she's in his chair and I smile as I relax into mine. For this moment in time, she's a competent adult, taking care of business. She knows that she wants the curls out of her face. She doesn't want to take a lot of time to deal with her hair. She wants it neat and not in her way. Jesse's happy to oblige.
It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a talented stylist to groom my mom. I'm so glad I found him.