Moms' Bestfriend, My Bouffant Mentor
She Was My Mentor...
She was so pretty, her hair bouffant and shiny black. She always had a cheerful smile on her face or something funny to say. I wanted her name to be mine, maybe then I’d grow up to be just like her. “Will you call me Shirley?” patting me on the head, Mom just said “no.” Mom and Shirley were introduced in the midst of a life changing experience: they shared a room in Willmar Minnesota at the Rice Memorial Hospital in the maternity ward. They were each about to give birth to their first born: Mom gave birth to “Mark,” Shirley gave birth to “Susie.” And there it was, the beginning of a lifelong friendship. As I recall, they met in the hospital only to find out they were almost next door neighbors. As time passed Mom eventually gave birth two more times before Shirley had a chance. When Shirley finally did give birth the second time it was a boy, low and behold she named him “Mark.” This was the beginning of “Big Mark” and “Little Mark.”
Shirley was Moms' best friend. There was never a dull moment in the room when they were together. It was the ‘60‘s, the days of bouffant hairdos with lots of hairspray. It was back when women spent more time in one afternoon in the beauty salon than most men today spend showering in an entire month. Shirley didn’t have one hair out of place. I always admired her and her beauty. She wore her hair up on the top of her head, sometimes it looked like a beehive and other times it was all curled up in a bun of hair bubbles. I brought up the discussion more than once; “Will you fix my hair like Shirley's?” There was something definitely mesmerizing to me about that woman. I think if I’d had the chance at that time of my childhood to make a request to God almighty I’d have asked to be changed into her.
Upon entering Shirley's house there was a distinct aroma, almost like that of a hospital disinfectant. This wasn’t overwhelming in any way at all, just clean. Her house was never untidy, everything was in it’s place. Her bathroom was spotless and the toilet water was always blue. She didn’t only make the beds in the bedrooms, she would lay her arm down the center of the pillow to make a crease in it and sort of roll it into a log and place it at the head of the bed.
As the years past I grew up and I guess time has a way of changing things. We eventually moved away and only saw Shirley and her family a few times a year when they would come and spend a weekend with us. Renae and I would anxiously wait on their arrival, going as far as to sweep the driveway so Marv’s car could be parked on the clean cement when they arrived. Those weekends with Susie and “Little Mark” were always full of excitement and sometimes got us into trouble, nothing serious, just innocent kid stuff trouble.
Shirley developed breast cancer in her forties and lost her beautiful hair to Chemo. She recently lost her husband Marv to a stroke but has outlived mom by 20 years now. Yes, time changes everything.
Every now and then she pops into my mind when I’m cleaning my house. I even tried to roll my bed pillows into logs once, but it just didn’t look right. In the end, I never managed to make my hair look like hers. I never convinced my mom to call me Shirley either. Over the years I witnessed changes in myself: changes in my surroundings and changes in my mom and her best friend. Some things were sad and I’d rather have not witnessed them at all. I feel fortunate to have the memories of the two of them together in their prime. They gave me something to look forward to in a sense. In my formative years I had the chance to witness two mothers having a wonderful time together, who in the middle of it all, still made time for their children. Time has turned everything over now, now I’ve become the mom...
Although the memories linger and some are stronger than others I can openly say there’s a part of me that will always strive to be just a bit more like that bouffant beauty. Maybe there’s a secret part of me that wants to be someone else’s Shirley.
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