Back in April, when I was panic-buying stuff, I got a professional haircut kit off Amazon because I figured we wouldn't be venturing to barber shops or salons anytime soon. I never did use it on the boys, who looked like werewolves until my stepfather-in-law took pity and gave them cuts. Sabrina and I held out and then my stylist opened her own salon and cut our hair one evening before she'd officially opened, and she's since let me in early in the morning for a dye job. Dave has had cuts outdoors at places.
When Ben and I headed to visit my Mom yesterday, I brought the fancy scissors along. I was a little nervous about using them, but I put on my big-girl panties and went to it. I spread out a garbage bag on the floor in the little sitting area near the kitchen, put a chair on it and helped my mom settle down. She's moving more slowly now; I immediately noticed that she had taken to shuffling instead of walking, and while she's as heartily cheerful as ever, her body is frail. She's always cold, so she kept on the flannel jacket she had over her housedress and I tucked a towel around her neck.
My mom has had short hair her entire life—pixie-like, a la Audrey Hepburn. Now, it was almost down to her shoulders. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing but I wet a comb, pulled it through her hair and started gently snipping away as Ben hung on the sofa in the other room and played a video game. Mom closed her eyes and sat there peacefully, a good thing because I'm pretty sure I look petrified.
"How much are you going to charge me?" Mom joked. I told her the cut was on the house but if she felt like tipping, I would accept pretzels or cookies (she is a snack monster).
"Actually, it's good for me to practice on you, Mommy," I said. "Who knows, maybe this can be my backup career!"
"Ellen, you could be a hairstylist!" she said. "You've always done anything you put your mind to!"
I mean, who in your life says things like that except your mom?
As nervous as I was about getting the cut right and not nipping her ears, it felt absolutely amazing to be doing something for my mother, who is the most selfless person I know. She apologized that I had come to her house only to do work, and I had to keep reassuring her it was my pleasure. She asked several times if I needed any groceries: "Do you need applesauce? Do you want to take home a jar of peanut butter?" I have a lot of guilt about not being there for my mom as much as I should be—my sister is the one who visits her weekly—and while giving her a haircut did not absolve me, I was glad I could do it.
We talked about politics and the pandemic and how the kids were doing while I did my best to shape her hair and her wispy-fine hair fell to the floor. Haircuts always look easy-breezy from the chair but figuring out the angles when you have a pair of scissors in hand, not so much. I was sweating behind my mask.
I'd swept my mom's hair to the side for the cut. When I thought I was done, I told her she could just keep it tucked to the side. "I usually have bangs," she noted. I couldn't escape the bangs. So I chewed my lip and went for it. They were actually not as nerve-wracking as cutting around her ears had been.
I'd sum up my handiwork as "not half bad." I grabbed a hand mirror from her bedroom for the big reveal. Mom took one look and gushed, "Ohhhhhh, Ellen, it looks beautiful! This is one of the best haircuts I've ever had!" Because: Mom. I felt a rush of happiness.
Then she said, "I don't think I'll ever have to go to the salon again!"
Tears sprang to my eyes, but I was crouched on the floor cleaning up so my mom couldn't see. She is up there in years, and I'm at the stage where when I call and her phone goes to voicemail, my heart catches. I pray to God that she is able to get to the salon again someday.
Mom's flannel jacket had hair all over it, so I grabbed an old roll of packing tape from drawer, wound a pice around my hand and used it to clear off her jacket. My dad, who instilled practicality in me, would have appreciated that.
Then she was urging me to get home, to avoid Sunday afternoon traffic. We walked to the stairs, Ben started trotting down and I turned up to look at my mom, waving so lovingly at me with her brand-new bangs.