Monday, June 6, 2011
Today I cut their hair. It’s one of those family rituals that seems like it will last forever, like trimming fingernails and nagging about teeth brushing. Every month or so I start noticing stray hairs shooting out from behind their ears. The son with the shaggy cut starts looking more shaggy than usual. So I start warning them about what’s to come.
“Someday soon I’m cutting everyone’s hair,” I’ll warn at dinner one night. There will be groans all around. No one enjoys it, including me, but it’s a necessary evil if I want to continue seeing their eyes. Everyone gets to pick how long or short they want their particular style. Runner boy complains that his is too long when it’s long enough to pinch between his fingers. Guitar loving son wants it long, but not anything close to a mullet. Little guy goes back and forth between super short and long, curly and unruly.
Finally the afternoon arrives when it’s time. No more putting it off. No more ‘I’m too tired tonight’ or ‘but my friend is on his way over…’. We pull out the token stool and dig out the yard and a half of silk that we fasten with a safety pin around the first subject’s neck. We get set up in front of the TV, because it keeps my victim distracted and buys me some extra time.
Every once in a while there will be fussing, and squirming and enough complaining that I have to pull out my standard line, “Okay, if you don’t want to cooperate, I’ll have to take you to the lady…”
This line has worked since they were small. They have no idea who the lady is. I don’t either, for that matter. But when they were young we’d see hairdressers on television and I’d say, “See, that’s where some kids go to get their hair cut.” It all looked very fru fru and feminine to my rough and tumble boys. They really didn’t have any desire to go to that place where women sat with foil sticking out of their heads. So ‘the lady’ line continues to work.
As I was cutting my oldest son’s hair yesterday, just hours before he’d leave for his senior prom, it occurred to me that I might only have a few more opportunities to perform this service for him. He goes off to college in just a couple of months, and there are no guarantees that he’ll be home on a regular basis.
We are moving to Colorado, but he’ll be going to college in Utah. So close, but also a mountain range away. There could easily be times that he needs a haircut and has no imminent plans to travel home. Someday soon, my boy may indeed have his hair cut by ‘the lady’ (and discover she’s not so scary after all).
This shouldn’t surprise me. It’s exactly how I came to cut his hair in the first place. I started by learning to cut hair on his daddy, when we were both in college. We lived in the same dorm and shared a circle of friends. He was two thousand miles away from home and had never had anyone but his mother cut his hair (sounds familiar). So one day I offered. I had no idea what I was doing. This was back in the stone age, before the option of googling or youtubing existed.
I had to actually walk all the way over to the college library, pull out long drawers from a tall wooden cabinet, and flip through a series of yellowing 3x5 cards, to find a single book on the art of cutting a man’s hair. But, as it turns out, one book was enough.
There were bumps along the way. One memorable afternoon I was cutting his hair while three friends of ours sat on a bunk bed across from us. In the midst of the joking and laughing my scissors slipped. In an instant a huge chunk of hair was missing from the side of his head. He couldn’t see the shock on my face, since I was standing behind him. But all three friends saw. With our eyes we agreed to not say a word. One of them continued with the conversation and we moved forward.
Ten minutes later he was standing at the small mirror that hung above my roommates dresser. He took a quick look at the final product, then paused, and went back to inspect one side again. He moved closer to the mirror. The rest of us held our breath. “Hmmmm….what’s going on here?” he asked, innocently. The four of us burst into fits of laughter. We couldn’t help it. He was just so cute, trying to be polite about the fact that I’d carved a bald spot on the side of his head.
Maybe that’s one of the millions of small moments that I knew he’d be a keeper for life.
I continued to cut his hair, through college, in the week before our wedding, and then year after year as we moved through life together. It only seemed natural that I’d tackle our daughter’s hair, since all she wanted was long and straight. I could do straight lines. Then three little brothers followed, and having inherited their daddy’s hair, it seemed only logical that I’d cut their hair too. When the toddler wisp turned into shaggy preschooler locks, they joined in the line up on hair cutting night.
And now we’re at the other end of that line. I may be losing one of my best clients soon. Someday soon, in a sweet smelling salon in Utah, my oldest son may put on another woman’s silk cape and hand over his loyalties.
Or maybe it will be a pretty classmate who lives in the next dorm who offers to do the job.
Either way, it’s almost time to hand over my scissors. And I’m not so sure I’m ready.