Letter to Sara – Jim B.
Well, last Tuesday was Mary’s first day at college.
You know how I felt as we drove there. I was asking her questions all the way. As usual her answers were blank stares. She won’t even tell me what she was planning to major in.
We stopped a few times along the way for a little rest. The weather was better when we left from Heritage College. It was kind of nice being able to take her. Al wanted to come along, but had to work. He told her he would visit Saturday, or Sunday, when she was more settled in.
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It around 5pm when we arrived, so I decided to stay in Martonville for the night. I tried to find a hotel, even a motel, room, but they were full. Some kind of event going on in Calton three miles north of here. Anyway, the dorm mother, Barbara Maison (a nice lady in her forties) said I could spend the night, or two, since classes didn’t start until Friday. And, the upper class students wouldn’t begin arriving until late Thursday.
So, Mary let her old mom stay.
I got to meet her room-mates, Carol, Sandi, and Miki. I took them out to dinner, we went to The Barn, you remember The Barn? It has not changed much since we went to Heritage. The only noticeable change is the parking lot. It is now cemented, not dirty like back when.
I also got to meet a few other girls from her dorm. The one that stood out to me was Toni. She is from Bowers about five miles south. She is living in the dorm rather than commute. Says she is a “studier”, and did not want to have to travel, not even the five miles.
But what made her stand out was the fact she had a crew cut. Yes, a crew cut, just like all the boys wore when we came here. At first I thought she was a boy, that was until she turned around. Girl, she is bigger than Gail Morgan, remember her? And when she walks they bounce more than Gail’s did.
But, that crew cut!
Since she was at The Barn by herself, we invited her to join us. She is a kick to be around. Sounds just like the people from around here. Always laughing, and very talkative.
Anyway, when we got back to the dorm, I decided to sit for a while and read a little. They have better books now, a lot of spice in them like we wanted when we were here. Around 11pm Toni came down for a little refreshment, and we talked.
After about thirty minutes of talking, and that crew cut stood out and got my attention more than you would think. I shook my head and told her, “I just have to,” and I reached over and brushed my fingers over her head. So, our talk turned to why.
She told me she got it at the beginning of the summer, a few days after graduating from high school. Seems when she was swimming on the high school swim team, her hair kept getting in her way. And she wanted to prevent that same problem when she competed with her summer swim club.
A few days before their last high school meet, one of the boys on the team showed up with a crew cut. All the girls started making a thing about it, like we did. But she noticed how he did not have any problems with his hair, which she said was kind of long, getting in his face.
So, since she would not be competing until after graduation, she said she made plans to cut her hair then. She went right after their last day of school.
The local beauty salon – can you believe they only have one salon in Bowers? – was full, so she went to the barber shop there. There’s a lady barber there, so getting her hair cut like she wanted was better. She thought the male barber would think she was joking and just give her a short trim.
But when she sat in the chair, the lady barber just asked, she told her what she wanted, and she walked out with the crew cut. The hard part, she said, was when she got home. She didn’t tell her mom that she was going to cut her hair that short.
So, when she got home her mom didn’t recognize her until she started talking.
Now, you’re not going to believe this. So, you better start reading very slow. Maybe even read over it a few times as you read along.
I began to think of what I would look like with a crew cut.
I know. She’s got to be stupid or something. But it got to me, just like the boys got to us when we began having those strange feelings. Well, the feeling was not that like those feelings, but it got to me all night. Could hardly sleep.
The next morning, at breakfast, I asked Toni where she got her crew cut at, and she said at Mike’s Cutting Shop in Bowers. Jokingly she asked, “Thinking of getting one?”
Well, I looked at her, then Mary, and said, “Maybe…”
Well, I got a reaction out of Mary I did not think I would get. “Mom,” she said. “Dad will have a fit. You know how he likes you with your long hair.” By the way, Sara, I forgot to tell you I have let my hair grow since we last saw each other, and it is, was, almost to my waist.
I just looked at her and told her I was “Thinking about it”. And besides, I didn’t think her dad would leave me over a haircut, no matter how short it was. But, Sara that crew cut got to me every time I saw Toni.
So, when we were having lunch, I did it. I asked Toni if she would take me to that barber shop. She shook her head and said, “Sure, if you’re sure.” I told her, “As sure as I ever was.” And Mary could not believe I had said what I said.
Anyway, after we finished breakfast, and they cleaned up, we got in my car and off we went. It took us about half an hour to get there. All the way Mary tried to talk me out of it. But I gave her those same blank stares she always gave me. And she took the hint when we pulled into the parking lot by the barber shop.
I have to admit I started getting nervous and almost told them I’d better not. But I saw how nice it looked on Toni, and she was starting to tell me how she was nervous when she came there. Once we were inside the shop the nervousness went away. Even with the two men and three boys there, including Rose, the lady barber, and Don, the male barber.
Toni said “hi” to Rose, and told her, “Brought you someone else for a crew cut.”
Rose looked at us and thought it was Mary, or Miki, whose hair was kind of short. We sat down and waited. Every time I got to think about not doing it, I would turn and look at Toni. Girl she looked great with the crew cut, and it didn’t even take away her being a woman.
It must have been about an hour or forty-five minutes later when Rose said, “Alright, which one of you girls is getting a crew cut?” They looked at me. Mary nudged me and said, “She is.”
Rose looked at me, and my heart stopped, I swear it stopped dead.
“Well, come on,” she said, shaking the cape out.
I got up and walked to the chair, sat in it. Just like Toni said, once she sat in the chair there was no way she was not going to get the crew cut.
Sara, I felt the same way.
Rose tossed the cape over me, pulled it in place. “Got a lot of hair to lose,” she told me. “Must be about two, two and a half feet long.”
“Not sure,” I told her. “I never measured it. But, I have seen longer.”
“Being you’re going to cut it almost completely off,” she said, as she comb it out from the center part. “Mind if I make a recommendation?”
“Sure,” I told her. “As long as you don’t try to talk me out of it.”
“Not going to do that,” she said. “But there is this organization, ‘Locks of Love’, maybe you’ve heard of them?” I thought about it but never heard of it, so I shook my head “no”.
“Well, it’s down in Florida,” she continued. “What they do is collect donated hair that is ten inches and longer. They match your hair with a young girl, who has no hair, for whatever reason, and sent it to her. Would you mind if I cut your hair in two ten-inch sections and send it to them?”
“Sure,” I told her, “better than you just tossing it in the trash.”
She tied my hair with four ribbons. One at the bottom, one close to where she pulled my hair all together, and two right next to each other with a little space to cut, in the middle of them. She cut right between the two middle ribbons, then she cut above the top one. Once she cut that top one I really could not say, “Stop… don’t cut my hair.”
She laid the two sections down on the shelf behind the chair. “Have a card you have to fill out,” she told me as she combed my hair out.
She cut what hair she did not cut to about the same length she cut the ponytail at. Small sections of hair fell each time she cut. Some in my lap, a lot to the floor around the chair. Some sections hung to the cape between my shoulders and my lap. I was able to watch her cut my hair, something Toni didn’t tell me.
There was a large mirror that lined the wall behind where the customers sat waiting their turn. It started about four feet above the floor and rose to about eight feet from the floor. So, you could not help but watch your hair being cut. It felt stranger than doing the same thing in a beauty salon. I guess that is because everyone who is waiting is watching you too.
Anyway, when she had finished cutting my hair all one length, which was about two, maybe two and a half, inches all over, she put the comb and scissors on the shelf. I saw her reach under the shelf, where her clippers hung, and I felt a lump come to my throat.
“You’re going to like this, Mrs. Myers,” Toni called out. We smiled at each other, and I looked at Mary. “Can’t believe she’s doing this,” Mary said with disbelief.
Miki patted her knee, and told her, “Hey, it could be you in the chair!”
Mary gave her a stare that would kill. I began laughing when Miki made the remark, and started to say something.
But then I heard a “click” sound, followed by humming. I knew what that was, and I just closed my eyes.
“Better keep them open,” Toni remarked. “Don’t want to miss seeing all your hair coming off… do we?”
I had to admit she was right, so I opened them just as Rose stood next to me on the right side. She didn’t say a word. My head was tilted a little to the left, and she pushed the clippers right up the side of my head as far as she could. With a little flick of her wrist she tossed clipped hair into the air, and it fell right to the floor.
She slowly repeated the clipping as she worked her way back over my ear, and behind it. My head was tilted forward a little as she pushed the clippers up the back of my head. She did this six times, and my head was tilted to the right. She pushed the clippers up the left side of my head three or four times, then she walked behind the chair.
I heard, and watched, the humming clippers come over the top of my head. She placed it in the center of my head and pulled it back towards her. Right down the middle of my head was a strip of hair the same length as the sides and back of my head.
Boy, did I look weird. I gave a little “hua” sound, and smiled. She brought the clippers back over my head again, and clipped to the right of the first one. The left side of the first was then done.
I looked at myself real good in that wall mirror. I really liked how I looked, much younger somewhat. And I noticed Mary’s eyes change how they were watching me. Her eyes looked like she also noticed how much younger I looked. She even asked me, how did it feel having all your hair cut with the clippers?
I just smiled at her as Rose ran the clippers over my head in all directions. She worked the clippers up the sides and back again, to make sure my hair was cut to the same length all over.
“How short is that?” Miki asked.
“Quarter of an inch,” Rose said, as she turned to the shelf.
“QUARTER of an inch?” Mary loudly inquired.
“Yes, quarter of an inch,” Toni told her. “The sides and back are going to be shorter in a few minutes.”
Mary and Miki looked at each other, then at me. I don’t know how my face looked, but all I know is that I begin to choke on a breath when Toni said that. “Shorter?” I said as Rose tilted my head forward.
“Yes, shorter,” Rose replied as she began pushing the clippers up the back of my neck and head. Again, to the same spot she did when she first ran the clippers up the first time. This time up the center of my neck and head, then to the left and finally the right. She walked to my left side, tilted my head a little to the right and began pushing the clippers up the side of my head.
When I saw how short the clippers were cutting my hair I almost fainted right there in the chair. But she saw this and stopped. “Feeling all right?” she asked. I took a deep breath and shook my head, “yes”.
When she saw I was all right she went back to pushing the clippers up the side of my head. Boy, there was no way I could say stop, now. Sara, if you were there you would have sworn she was shaving me bald. I could hardly see my dark black hair, it was clipped so short.
For the first time I began to wonder what Al would say. I really felt sorry I did not tell him how short I was getting my hair cut when I called him before we left – which I did not tell Mary I did, either. But, I can tell you this, when she began pushing the clippers up my head, over my ear and behind it, I began feeling something I haven’t felt in years. Now don’t go telling Al I said that, you know what he would do.
Girl, when she started pushing the clippers up the right side of my head I thought I was going to lose it right there in that chair. Right in front of everyone, including my daughter.
Finally, I felt her left hand brush over my head as she turned the clippers off.
“There,” she said. “All done. What you think?”
I looked in that wall mirror, turning my head a little to each side. Boy, I could not believe I did it. I really did it. I cut all my hair off, in a crew cut at that.
“Here,” she told me as she handed me a hand mirror. “You’ll get a better view with this.”
As I was looking at myself, again turning my head a little to each side, I noticed how much more my eyes showed. I also noticed that the little beaded earrings I was wearing really didn’t stand out. I would have to start wearing something larger, maybe even those loop earrings. I think I may get my ears pierced a few more times. Al has asked me to do that a number of times. He thinks I look good with earrings on, rather than without them.
I lowered the mirror and looked at the girls. “Well, what do you think?” I asked them.
I was wanting to know what Mary thought, more than the other two. “Great, you look great,” Miki said.
Then I saw the smile on Mary’s face. She walked to the chair. “Can I feel?”
“Sure,” I told her. “Didn’t think I would do it, did you?”
She smiled as she brushed the tips of her fingers up the left side of my head.
“Kind of like dad’s face in the morning,” she said. “But the top is nice and soft – like a short-haired hairbrush. Remember, like the one you and dad gave me for my sixth birthday?”
I had not brushed my fingers over the top yet, but when I did, she was right.
“Excuse me for a few more minutes,” Rose told Mary. “I have to do a little edging.”
Mary stepped back and sat by Miki and Toni, as Rose tucked a towel in my blouse. First, in the back, then over my shoulders. Miki leaned forward a little and looked at Toni.
Toni smiled at her, saying, “You’ll see!”
Then, I knew right away. I looked in the wall mirror just as Don began spreading shaving cream along the hairline of his customer. Rose was going to do the same thing to me, and for some strange reason I was looking forward to it. But, when Mary saw Rose standing besides the chair with a pile of shaving cream in her left hand, she almost jumped out of her chair. Her eyes got big as she started to rise, but Toni grabbed her arm, stopping her from moving.
“Sit down,” she commanded her. “Everything is going to be alright.”
Then Rose began spreading the warm lather along my hairline. I mean it felt warm, but not hot. When she was finished, she reached to the shelf and picked up a small object.
As she lifted the leather strap, hanging from the right arm of the chair, she flipped it with her right hand. It opened real quick, out popped a shiny thin-edged blade. She sharpened it on the leather strap, moving her right hand up and down over it. Slowly first, then the last few strokes were a little faster.
I watched her raise the sharp blade up to my head, and I took a deep breath. Then, she placed the edge just around the hairline and quickly stroked the lather and some hair off. She then began using the very tip part of the razor as she edged along the hairline. I knew it was the edge, because I could feel it.
When, she shaved down my neck she made little movements, then wiped the blade off and did a little more. When she started to shave the back, she stopped and stepped back a little.
“Want the back blocked, or in a ‘V’?” she inquired.
“What?” I inquired. I didn’t know what she asking. I sat there trying to figure out what she wanted know, but could not. Then, I just told her “Whatever you think would be best. After all, I am a woman, not a man.”
She patted me on the left shoulder. “Right, a ‘V’ would look better. Isn’t that how I edged your neck, Toni?”
Toni felt the back of her neck, then Miki reached up pushed her head a little to the right. “Yes,” Miki said, “it looks like a ‘V’. What you think Mary?” Toni turned her head so Mary could see, and she shook her head “yes”.
Rose stepped to the left side and shaved along the hairline as she did on the right side. When she got to the back, she stopped and spread more shaving cream, but in the shape of a ‘V’. Then, she began shaving the ‘V’ shape out the back. I could feel the ‘V’ take shape as she shaved more to the middle as she shaved downward.
When she was finished she took a warm towel and wiped away what shaving cream, if any, was left behind. Then she rubbed some lotion in her heads and spread it over my haircut. First, coming from the front to the back along the sides, moving to the back. Then, over the top of my head. Next she took a soft-haired brush and brushed back over my head.
With the shaking of powder on the hair duster, she then dusted along the sides of my head, then the back. Then, she finished up by dusting across my face, as she removed the cape from my lap.
“There you go,” she announced. “One crew cut.”
I got out the chair, as the girls rushed up to meet me. Mary once again brushed her fingertips over the sides of my head, as Miki brushed her fingertips over the top of my head. Toni stood there smiling.
“Thought you were joking, Mrs. Myers,” she said.
Then Rose asked, “Who’s next?”
I looked at Mary, but she just smiled and shook her head “no”. But she stepped back a little, and as she winked, said, “Maybe in a few weeks, after I get settled in.”
Miki quickly said, “NO! My mother would kill me, even if I was a hundred years old.”
After I paid for the haircut, which was a lot cheaper that at the beauty salon, we left the shop and went a few block to a sweet shop. The girls treated me to a sundae and we talked.
Later, when we returned to the college, Mary and I talked like we have never done. I think she began looking towards me as a friend, which I have been trying to be for the last few years. It’s kind of hard to look at her as a child, or teenager, with her being in college. So, I have decided to look at her as a young lady, a friend.
Well, I need not tell you what Al said when I got home later last night. But, things kind of changed around midnight… but I am not going to tell how, nor why.
Mary called me this morning to tell me what she decided to major in: education. And said she was looking forward to me coming back up there in three or four weeks. And so were her roommates. They even said I shouldn’t worry about where to stay, either.
Al is waiting in the car as I finish this letter to you. We are going to the mall and find one of those photo booths. I’ll send you one of the pictures. Love, Mom.