About my haircut.
Actually the time in the barber’s chair – see My Haircut, Part I in my previous blog – always reminds me of when I was still very young (yes, there was a time).
But I was a “big boy” now and was trusted to go on my own. My mom would arm me with the cost of the haircut – anywhere from a dime to a quarter – and send me on my way. She was working and didn’t have time to cut our kids’ hair any more, now that we had moved into town.
Town. I was in Grade five when we made that move. Adrift in a population of strangers.
And that was the hard part. Haircuts with Mom were tough enough. First she had to corral us – not an easy job because our jobs were full time and had no time to spare. First we had to do the morning chores. Mine was helping to muck out the barn, feed the animals, milk the cow, and all of that. Then we had to play just as hard as we worked. That’s what kids in our situation did.
Mom would sit us on a kitchen chair, wrap us up like cocoons in a bed sheet and have at us with comb and scissors. Squirm time.
But town stores were ever so much busier than country stores, especially on shopping day – Thursday in the country, Saturday in town. In town Mom had to be in the store the whole time, and so, I was booted off to get the dreaded haircut.
Waiting in the barber shop for my haircut was always interesting. All of the customers were old – well at least to my young eyes they were old. One barber, one chair, a bunch of guys sitting around on wooden chairs, the spit bowl (cuspidor, boy! cuspidor) occasionally receiving a brown wad from across the room, launched through brown teeth of an overalls-clad, bewhiskered old guy. And there was always the talk. Talk, talk, talk. It was all magical and interesting, and I was always out of place.
Then there was the time in the chair. The barber swooped the cover cloth over me and cinched it tight around my neck. Very tight, very uncomfortable. Perhaps that’s why I always hated wearing a tie. Too confining. And too shy. I always wanted to sink into that shroud to escape the prying eyes. Always the prying eyes.
And then there was the huge mirror on the wall. You sat there trying not to stare at that awkward little boy staring back at you – and the barber hovering over him. Heck, I’m still not comfortable with that. At least with home haircuts we were spared that.
Oh, to sleep
After that, with the water spray (ugh!), the harsh combing and the snip, snip, snip came the talk, talk, talk. I didn’t want to talk. But half way into the procedure, the gentle but firm hands on my scalp as the barber grabbed a lump of hair from his comb in preparation to the big snip, I felt so soothed that all I wanted to do was sleep.
At least once I did. Oh the mortification when the barber woke me and all the men laughed. Always there was laughter in that room. Imagine! Sleeping though my haircut.
But there was another problem. Inevitably, my left arm began to itch. As the itching became more intense, I just had to reach over and scratch. This, of course, disrupted the barber’s rhythm, and the flow of his talk, talk, talk and he wanted to know what was the matter.
Of course I turned beet red with embarrassment at that point and all I wanted to do was rip that cover sheet off and bolt out of the joint.
And that’s practically what I did once I’d been shorn. I shove the coins at the barber, turned tail and ran. The farmer’s laughter chased behind me.
But then there was the cool air on my bald-feeling head – and especially on my newly exposed neck. At least it cooled my red face. I walked as fast as I could without running to escape the eyes. Always the eyes. Staring.
I felt like a freak. My haircut – I couldn’t keep my hand from feeling it – must have made me look like one of those kids in Our Gang with The Little Rascals. Humiliating.
However, as I grew older and bolder, I would stride into that barber shop, say hi, and sit down to wait—as far from the cuspidor as possible. It was all bravado, of course, but at the age of fourteen, I convinced myself that I was actually brave, and demanded a brush cut.
I would be a man!
Note: When you’re dealing with an Alzheimer’s person every day, you find yourself continually asking, or disguising the question as, “Don’t you remember?” or “ Remember when?” or “Do you remember this?” Of course that never helps your loved one, not when asked like that.
However, it puts you in that Remember When mode. This was one of those times.