Sister’s Summer Haircut by Haircape
“Don’t forget,” my mom called to us as we went out the door. “I’ll pick you up after school so we can do our errands.” I looked at my sister, for we both knew that “errands” meant we would be spending the day shopping for camp materials. It was early June and there were only 12 days before my sister Jennifer and I would be going away to our summer camp in New Hampshire.
As the school bell rang, I looked for my older sister, so that we could find Mom. I was eleven, a fifth grader, and I looked forward to going to camp to play sports with the other boys and flirt with the girls. Jennifer was thirteen, and she too was looking forward to camp and being in the older group. We spotted Mom and hopped into the car.
“We’re going to stop at the Barber shop first, so that David can get a haircut, and then we’ll go and get the camp stuff,” Mom announced as we climbed into the car. We didn’t think anything of this, Mom was in charge of the haircuts, so there was no protesting from me. I got my hair cut at Reggie’s Barbershop, which was located in a small strip mall on the other side of town.
Ten minutes later, the car pulled up in front of Reggie’s, and we went in. It was a traditional barbershop with beige, leather waiting chairs that had black handles and metal legs. The wood-paneled walls had pictures of various men’s and boys’ haircuts, and there was a price list in one corner. Along the wall behind the waiting chairs was a mirror, and above the mirror sat a television set. There were three barber chairs, although there were always only two barbers. In front of the chairs was a long mirror, which ran the length of the wall, and a metal cabinet with drawers where the barbers kept their equipment. I liked the shop because you could watch the television while your hair was getting cut by looking in the mirror in front of you.
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Late June in Massachusetts meant hot weather, and that meant short haircuts. I remembered two years ago when Mom decided that I should have a crewcut, and hoped that wasn’t her decision again this year for my summer haircut. Nevertheless, I knew my hair was going to be much shorter when I left Reggie’s that day.
Since it was early summer, the shop was rather busy. There were two brothers getting crewcuts when we walked in as their mother sat and watched with approval. Before it would be my turn, there was an another gentleman, and another mother with two young sons. I picked up a Sports Illustrated and waited my turn, Jennifer and my mother sat down and began talking about their own haircuts at the Beauty parlor for the next day.
Jennifer had begun to really develop as a young woman, and more than once, my friends would want to sleep over so they could spy on her as she dressed or showered. She was a pretty girl, who seemed to be attractive to the boys her age. Her hair fell to her breasts and shoulder blades. It was dark brown, and she kept it in a ponytail most of the time. The reason was because she didn’t have time to do it every morning before school. As it was, it took her 45 minutes to get her bangs just right.
I could overhear my mother suggesting that maybe Jennifer should cut her hair shorter as many other girls in her class had. Jennifer said she would give it some thought and discuss it with her friends. As they were talking, the two crewcuts were done and the chairs had new occupants. The chair on the right had the gentleman, and one of the boys sat down in the middle chair. The boy’s mother approached the chair to talk to Frank, the barber. Frank was Reggie’s father, and had always worked in the shop with his son. Frank had wrapped the tissue on the boys neck and placed the cape around him. The boy was only about six years old, and his mother was very attractive.
“What’ll it be ma’am?” Frank asked the boy’s mother.
“Nice and short for the summer,” was her reply.
“You want to take it all off?” Frank asked, suggesting a crewcut. I remember it had been this same type of question by Frank that had resulted in my own shearing two summers earlier.
“I don’t know,” she replied, running her fingers thorough her son’s hair as he sat there helpless. “That seems awfully short.”
“It’ll keep him cool, and he doesn’t have to worry about brushing it or drying it off after he swims.” Frank was persistent. “If you’re not sure you want it so short, I can do it real short on the back and sides and leave the top a little longer.”
“That sounds good,” she said, and with that the boys fate was sealed. Out came the clippers and his hair was reduced to 1/4 of an inch, 1/2 inch on top.
His brother was seated next and received the exact same haircut. Both haircuts were over so quickly, I had not realized that it was now my turn to sit in Frank’s chair. I had preferred Reggie to cut my hair, but the gentleman in his chair was now receiving a shave, and I knew that Mom wouldn’t let me wait. I took my seat, and the tissue and cape were placed around me.
“Nice and short for the summer?” Frank asked, “We going to take it all off?”
I was beginning to sense that Frank liked this little game, seeing a boy squirm helpless under the cape, while his mother pondered the fate of his hair.
Frank continued, “Real easy to take care of.”
“I don’t think so,” Mom replied much to my relief. “Just make it nice and short, a regular boy’s haircut.”
“You got it,” Frank answered and went to work.
“That does sound nice though,” I heard my mom say behind me.
“What does?” inquired Jennifer
“Getting a crewcut! You wouldn’t have to spend so much time on your hair in the morning.” As Mom said this, I noticed Frank’s ears prick up little. Reggie was finished with his customer, and another had taken his place in that chair. Frank began to think he might get to shear more hair than usual on this hot June afternoon.
“Are you saying that you want a crewcut Mom?” Jennifer asked.
“No, my hair is already short and easy to take care of.” Mom answered. It was true. Mom’s dark hair had been short for several years. Short on the back and sides and curly on top. It had never been clippered, but she never fussed over it like Jennifer did.
“So you think that I should get one?” Jennifer asked, somewhat in disbelief.
“Why not. Short hair is in, and you have beautiful features, honey.” Now Mom was trying to be persistent. “If you don’t like it, it will be grown out into a more ‘normal’ style by the end of camp. I think you would look adorable.”
By this time, Frank was finishing my cut, and he began cleaning up my hairline with the small clippers. Frank undid the cape and I stepped down. “Not too bad,” I thought to myself. Frank shook out the cape and called, “Next!” I couldn’t believe what I heard next.
“Go ahead, Jennifer, it’s your turn,” Mom looked at my sister but she didn’t move. “I said, go ahead Jennifer, we haven’t got all day.”
Jennifer slowly moved toward the chair and settled into its large frame. Frank tied the tissue around her neck and fastened the cape around her.
“What’ll it be?” Frank asked although he already knew what the answer was going to be.
“Nice and short for the summer,” Mom replied, playing Frank’s game.
“Are we taking it all off?” Frank asked. “Easy to care for, keeps you cool.”
My sister sat squirming uncomfortably as I had been a few minutes earlier trapped under the cape. Mom moved toward the chair and took out the ponytail holder that Jennifer had been wearing, Jennifer’s hair cascaded over the cape. She looked like nothing more than a little head of hair sticking out from under the giant cape. Mom put her hand on top of Jennifer’s head, running it through her hair as the young mother had done earlier to her son. Mom pulled Jennifer’s hair back and exposed her forehead in an attempt to visualize what the results would be.
“I think we’re going to do it, nice and short, real short. Look how cute you’re going to look.” Mom pointed toward the mirror to show Jennifer. “You won’t need this any more.” Mom put the ponytail holder in her purse and sat down in the barber chair that was never used.
Frank opened a drawer in the metal cabinet, pulled out a set of large metal clippers and plugged them in. They made a pop when he turned them on and Jennifer squirmed under the cape.
“All off?” Frank asked Mom while holding the clippers at his side.
“All off,” Mom responded with a nod.
Frank raised the clippers to Jennifer’s forehead with his right hand and pushed her bangs back, as Mom had done, with his left hand. It seemed like slow motion as Frank pushed the clippers right down the middle of my sister’s head, spilling walls of hair off of the sides of her head and tumbling to the floor. My sister sat there, still with long hair, but she had a path of 1/4-inch fuzz right down the middle of her head. Frank continued to plow over the top her head, replacing long hair with dark fuzz. When he was done with the top, he moved to the right side, and pushed the clippers back from her temple. I was awestruck, as were the other customers at the pile of hair that was growing on the cape and floor.
Soon Frank was doing the back, plowing up from her neck to her crown. The hair was simply being pushed to the side where some clung to the hair still on her head, but most fell to the floor. The hair that managed to stay was soon on its way to the floor as the clippers made a new path. The left side was cleaned the same way the right had been, and the dramatic part of the cut was over. My sister, who moments earlier had been only a little head with hair spilling out over the cape, was a now a little head with hair piled on the cape. It was a delightful sight to see.
My mom walked over and felt her head. “It’s so soft, you look great!” Mom said as Frank went over Jennifer’s head with the clippers again to get any last hairs. He cleaned up her hairline, brushed her off, and my sister got up.
“I like it!” she exclaimed as she stood in the pile of hair that had once been on her head. “I really do.”
“I knew you would,” Mom answered.