Hair - The Story of a Mother and Daughter
Sometimes it's more than hair
"Where'd you get that pretty red hair?"
Why did people have to ask that daft question - they asked it all the time!
My mother was quick to answer, "Oh, the Angles gave it to her!" and I'd smile sweetly on cue. What I really wanted to say was that, "It just grew there, stupid!" and then smile sweetly. But mom always beat me to the punch.
For my hair, she felt a strange sense of pride. Mom was Scottish and I was adopted. So she figured, with my red hair, no one would doubt I was really her child.
It was the early '60s and we lived in a small town. It seemed important to her that people not know I was adopted.
The irony was, everyone in this small town knew. Many had known her since she was the prom queen in high school. Many of the men had surely put their names on her dance cards and their hands on her...well never mind. The point is, EVERYONE knew I had not sprung forth from her womb! But illusion seemed to be her cape of protection in life.
It wasn't that my mother was a liar. Well, she did lie - to me and to others. Often. But her lying was more from a sense that she couldn't be good enough for the world, just the way she was.
As a young adult entering the working world, her advice to me was, "Oh just tell them you can do it, then learn it afterwards." It was meant as help and to show me how much she believed in me. But that approach could never work - it was too stressful for me.
When I was a younger child, she had the need to cloak herself in the heavy cape of Valium to hide from the stress of a job that was too much for her. That had been a nasty disguise and she was so scary emerging from it when it had nearly consumed her.
I hated my red hair. That is until I decided being different was rebellious! When I came home with the "Annie Lennox" hair cut - short and spiky - my mother was alarmed.
"But dear, people won't know if you're a boy or a girl!" HA, that alone was worth the hair cut. It also made me laugh good and long.
"Mom, if they can't tell, I think they have more problems than me!" She never had a good come-back for that. HA again, I had won!
But right now. I stood in a cold room, somewhere deep in the bowels of the hospital. This woman's hair - it was so soft as I ran my fingers sadly through it. Still mostly brown at 72, she had frosted it regularly - there was little gray.
I pat her head tenderly, as I did with both of my babies when were born. I stared at her stunning cheek bones, handed down to her from a beautiful 19th century Native American consort. That blood had been the curse of her family for five generations.
But I smiled knowing it was also responsible for her last illusion. The one where the doctor yelled at the nurse, "This can't be HER chart. She's not 72! She's in her 50s."
I hoped that that had been the last sparkle in my mother's blue eyes and the last laugh on her lips before she slipped to the other side.