The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

There was a little girl who had a little curl

I honestly don't think a week's gone by this year that someone hasn't complimented Julia on her hair. It's always been her best feature; long and thick, with big fat curls that corkscrew when it's humid and spiral gently then there's not much moisture in the air. It's certainly not something that she inherited from me. I've spent my life battling with thin, straight hair that's prone to frizz, so Julia's beautiful locks are something I both covet and protect. Her shirt may be stained, her shoes may be scuffed, but by God her hair is always carefully coiffed.

Last week, I took both kids to the hair salon, Evan for a spring shearing and Julia for a semi-annual trim. Her hair had gotten so long that it stretched all the way down her back when it was wet and I hated to let a pair of scissors touch it, but it was growing in slightly uneven and was starting to look a little stringy. I knew that a trim would make a world of difference, and I was willing to part with a little bit of length to clean it up a bit.

"This much?" the hairdresser asked, holding up about an inch of curl at the bottom of Julia's hair. "Looks about right," I agreed. "I just want to clean it up. I don't want to lose any of the length." The woman nodded and began pinning up sections of hair, so I left Julia in her hands and went over to supervise Evan's cut.

Anyone who's ever been the victim of an enthusiastic stylist knows where this is going. I returned to Julia's chair minutes later to find at least 2 1/2 inches of hair lying on the floor around her. I must have gasped a little bit, because the hairdresser was apologetic. "Her hair was a lot shorter on one side," she explained. "I had to keep going." I just nodded. What else could I say? The deed was done. Silently, I watched as she blew Julia's hair dry. It did look thicker and healthier, and I knew that the length would grow back. But the curls were another story. In her exuberance, the stylist seemed to have cut every last one of them off. "Look, Mom, my hair's straight like yours," Julia crowed. I wanted to cry.

It's been a week since the fateful cut and I have yet to reconcile with Julia's new appearance. I'm still trying to convince myself that the curls are still in there somewhere. I've tried scrunching and products and everything else I can think of, things I never thought I'd do to a 4 year old's hair, to coax them along. With effort, I can corral the thick waves into something resembling her old hairstyle. On humid days, it's almost curly. But those beautiful curls, the ringlets that naturally spiraled down and puddled at the small of her back, are gone forever. Julia's just about the age that her cousin was when her beautiful toddler ringlets relaxed into a headfull of thick, wavy "real" hair, I'm now realizing. Nature probably would have taken Julia to the same place sooner or later. But her ill-fated haircut accelerated the process, and I'm inexplicably bitter about it.

I don't know why I can't get past this, why I'm so desperate to get those curls back and so distraught that I can't seem to resurrect them. It's just hair, and Julia's still looks long and lovely. She's perfectly content with the change and actually seems a little bit delighted that her hair isn't as curly any more. But I am anything but delighted, and I can't quite figure out what's at the root of my complaint. Is this a materialistic ache for the loss of something I considered beautiful? A maternal ache at the loss of my child's youthful look? Or simply resistance to change, any change at all? I keep wondering, and as I keep wondering, I keep twirling my daughter's hair between my fingers... sometimes absently, sometimes deliberately and -- disappointingly enough -- rarely with any success.


At 5:03 PM, Blogger Veronica Mitchell said...

I just found your blog, I think through circuitous bloglists starting with Phantom Scribbler. Anyway, my baby just lost her curly hair so I can relate. Of course you feel loss when something beautiful changes! Everyone does.

If it makes you feel any better, my childhood hair was straight, but it turned very curly during the teenage years. So your daughter's curls may just be on a long vacation.

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Gretchen said...

Always tough when they lose the baby curls, and I have the lurking curls like Julia does. My Julia put curls in my hair while I carried her, and maybe someday your Julia will carry a daughter to bring her curls back.

In my jewelry box is a snippet of Sam's golden baby curls. One of my dearest possessions.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

Coming from a long line of "fine straights", this story breaks my heart...and befuddles my mind. You mean to tell me, you can actually LOSE curls? I thought once you had 'em, you never lost 'em. To discover otherwise put cracks in my foundational beliefs...the world is far more cruel than I ever realized.

At 5:48 PM, Blogger Rosemary said...

Ohhhh, I so understand. Alex had the most fabulously beautiful hair, luxuriousl thick dark brown hair with glorious waves that fell dwn below her waist. In high school, she had it all chopped off to a very short style in order to give her hair to Locks of Love. I sincerely applaud her gift to some unknown person who would be so grateful for her generousity. Still, I miss brushing her hair or picking her out in the distance from her fabulous locks.

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Oh, this is tugging at my heart too. Tess has a headful of blonde corkscrew curls and I haven't been able to cut her hair yet at all. Not one snip. Materialistic and vain? Maybe. But, it's more. When I imagined having a daughter, I did not in any way picture the daughter I have. She continues to surprise me every day and I think in some way her curls remind me every day of just how much her own person, on her own path, she is. Either that or I just think they're pretty? ;)

(((Hugs))) mama. I would be heartbroken too.

At 10:31 PM, Blogger Liesl said...

Aw, I'm sorry this happened. Those little girl curls are just so adorable, and I'd have a hard time bidding the good-bye, too.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger jordan said...

don't worry, the curls come and go. mine have gone, come and changed shape and texture all through my life. i will be at the ready when my neice needs curl controlling advice!

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Suzanne said...

My hair was curly when I was a toddler, and then just incredibly thick and wavy for a few years. Then, SPROING, the curls came back. They've been with me ever since. Not that my experience is necessarily representative, but Julia's curls just may come back.


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