My hair apparent

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 2, 2003

I was born bald, but quickly made up for it.

By the time of my first birthday, I had a head full of flaxen tresses.

Mama used a product called Nestle (not to be confused with the chocolate mix) to make it curl a bit. Nestle helped give me that angelic look I was sadly never able to duplicate in my actual behavior.

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My hair grew fast and it grew thick, the product of good hair genes on both sides of the genetic pool.

At age five, it fell to my waist, smooth and shining gold—a testament to my mother’s tender, loving care.

Mama expertly trimmed my ends and my bangs every six weeks or so.

Every Saturday I climbed up on the kitchen counter for my once-a-week shampoo and crme rinse.

My weekly rendezvous with the kitchen sink gave me a literal pain in the neck—I wonder, is this a factor in the stiff neck I battle now?—but I loved those shampoos nevertheless.

I can still feel my mother’s strong hands massaging my scalp and the warm, inviting rush of the water cascading over my soapy tresses.

I still smell the sweet scent of the shampoo and feel the vigorous toweling off that followed before the careful comb-out Mama executed.

During the summer I would sit outside with a ‘Popeye’ ice pop and a good book and let the sun’s rays dry my mop.

In the winter the gas heater and/or the fireplace had to do the job.

Mama often braided it into pigtails for school.

My part and plaits were always perfect or she started all over again.

Sometimes I sported a high ponytail or two low, loose ones, a la ‘the Brady Bunch’ girls.

When I simply wore it loose, kids on the bus used to fight over who got to be the one to brush my hair.

I enjoyed the attention.

There was a sensual delight in how good it felt to have someone else brush it for me.

I was around eight years old, I think, the first (and only time, in childhood) time I had my hair cut short.

I came home from the beauty shop with a china doll cut, my hair just grazing my chin line.

I stood in front of the hallway mirror, looked at this alien creature and bawled. Mama cried, too.

I guess we both missed all that hair.

It wasn’t actually gone, though.

Mama brought a long, thick swath of it home and tucked it into an empty Peter Pan peanut butter jar.

I used to visit it regularly and mourn a little.

And yes, I still have it.