Mother’s Surprise

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Mother’s Surprise

By JimB (C)opright June 20th., 1987

I had just gotten off the telephone with my sister when the telephone rang again.

This time it was mother, she wanted to tell me she was planning to go to a party, that night.

She asked me, “If I would meet her a few blocks from Aunt Kay’s apartment, where the party was being held.”

The party was for her.  It was somewhat a “renewal of her life” party planned by Aunt Kay, a close friend of hers.

She was just coming out of her shell after five years and dad’s death back then.

They were very close and his death was very hard on her.

But, for the last year or so, she was beginning to become her old self.

I agreed to met her for 6PM, instead of 6:30PM, so she could “take care of something,” as she put it.

She did not go into details. But, she told me it was going to help her get herself back on track.

Whatever it was she was not going to tell me.

“You will have to trust me,” she told me. “I have given this a great thought.”

We hung up and I started putting dinner together for my husband and children.

Then, I was off to take a long soak in warm water and a relaxing shower.

When they arrived I had dinner on the table. All I had to do was finish dressing, if my husband would let me.

After getting them to the table, I went upstairs and finished dressing. It was almost 5:45PM when I left “dad” in the hands of the children.

I say it this way because he is a great husband and father.

But, when I left him with the children he loses control and ends up giving into them as the night progresses.

I met mom at a little outdoor restaurant. She was dressed in a nice above the knee skirt and matching blouse, with five-inch high heels, something she had not worn since dad’s death.

Her hair was combed,

But, not styled like she always does. Her hair was still natural, with some graying, for a lady of 65, who was a mother of two boys, three girls, and twelve grandchildren.

Her body was one a twenty-year-old woman would like to have.  Her make-up was of someone trained to apply make-up to an actress or model.

As we walked towards Aunt Kay’s apartment I asked what it was she wanted to do.

She looked at me with a smile. “I was unable to get an appointment with my hairdresser today, to get my hair trimmed, because I was late in trying to get an appointment.”

She remembered the little barber shop dad went to when he got his hair cut. “They also cut women’s hair,” she told me.

The barber shop was a few blocks from Aunt Kay’s, so we stopped there first.

There were not many customers in the three-chair barber shop.

As we sat waiting mom’s turned to me, “I remembered the times I would come here with dad and your two brothers.”

Mom was expecting my sister, Mary, and I would go with them just to give her a little rest.

The barber shop still had the old barber chairs. I remember sitting in one, while dad got his hair cut, it felt like I had fallen into a hole. It was so big my feet did not touch the floor, come to think of it no one’s feet touched the floor either.

A few minutes had passed, I was looking through a magazine, when the barber at the middle chair called mom’s number.

She got up, handed me her purse, and walked to the barber chair and sat in it.

She and the barber, who had cut dad’s hair, knew each other and said their hellos.

I remember back a little more and remembered mom had come to the barber shop and got her hair trimmed a few times with dad, sometimes with us in tow.

The barber, Connie, was a friend of dad.

As Connie tossed the cape across mother, she placed one foot on the footrest and crossed the other leg over it.

Too, my surprise this brought the attention of some of the men waiting their turn as they gave her a little smile, letting her know she still had it.

She picked up a water bottle and started spraying her hair to dampen it.

Her hair was silken soft from years of care. As she brushed through the damp strands the gray strands began to stand out from the soft brown ones.

She picked up the scissors from the shelf and the comb from her blouse pocket. With the skill of years she combed and sectioned her hair.

Pinning each section close to her scalp, not to injure the skin or hair.

When her head was completely sectioned, except for the last section, she combed a little out and with the shining blades of the scissors cut about four inches off.

The damp strands fell into her cape-covered lap. Another section was combed out and the scissors clipped another four inches, falling to join the first.

Each sectioned was unpinned, combed in smaller sections, and cut.

Each four inches falling to join those before it in the cape, or on the floor around the barber chair.

For years, even before dad’s death, mom had said she wanted to cut her hair short.

But, dad would look at her with his pleading eyes asking her not to, because dad liked her hair just below the shoulders. He would take hold of it to give her a wild passionate kiss, or to run his fingers through the soft strands.

Now those times were gone, and so was dad.

I was deeply involved in the magazine, I was reading through, that I did not notice Connie combing more of the now shorter hair and clip another two inches off.

When I did look up from the magazine mom’s hair was being cut to about two inches in length all over.

My expression was of surprise, of wonderment.

But, mom just sat as Connie combed and cut her hair shorter.

When she was finished cutting her hair, Connie began to dry it with her hands. Shaking the dampness in the air as she combed it with a center part.

Her face showed, her cheeks were rosy with embarrassment.

But, her looks were better.

Connie turned and placed the scissors and comb on the shelf and began searching in a small glass cabinet.

Finding what she wanted, her right hand reached under the shelf and brought something up. I could not see what it was, because she was standing so it was hidden from view.

Her left arm moved as if it was making contact with her right.

Instead of watching to see what happened, I went back to reading the magazine.

There was a soft “click” sound followed by a softer sound of humming.

I knew the sound was of barber’s clippers.

But, thought they were being used to clip the hair of one of the other customers.

As the soft humming turned into one of cutting, my ears told my mind it was closer than I thought.

I looked up to see Connie slowly pushing the clippers up behind mom’s right ear, cutting her hair to half an inch. As I looked closer I noticed, as she was working the clippers around the back of her head, her hair had been clipped in front of her right ear.

Still I sat watching.

Women were getting their hair cut extremely short in boyish hair cut.

I had even thought of cutting my own hair this short one summer.

But, my husband, like my dad in a way, liked my hair just around shoulder length.

Once I did get it cut an inch above the shoulders and he liked it.

I had even seen a woman, who came to do business with the company I worked for, with her hair cut to about half an inch all over.

Of course, you can see young girls in their late teens and twenties with their hair cut even shorter, even with some part of it shaved to the scalp.

I went back to reading the magazine.

For some reason something in me told me to look up.

When I looked up Connie was just pushing the clippers over her head.

With a few combings of the clippers, her hair was now half an inch all over.

To see her hair cut this short was strange after all these years.

What was I going to say.  Or could I say anything to her?

Went she was finished the clippers were turned off.

But, the humming sound still filled the barber shop.

My eyes turned to the barber chairs on either side of the one mom was sitting in to see the young me in them getting crew cuts.

I shook my head a little in disbelief.  Or was it just a coincidence?

I started to look back to the magazine.

But, I put it down.

I wanted to watch any more transformation of my mom’s hair cut.

And, I was in for something I thought I would never see her do.

Connie was dusting small clipped hairs from her face, tossing them in the air around her head like a soft halo. Her left hand was dusting her new short hair cut causing more hair clippings to fly in the air.

When she stopped the dusting mom brought her left hand from under the cape and she brushed her new hair cut with it.

She gave me a smile of mixed reaction.

Was it because of her disbelief she had let Connie cut her hair this short.

Or, one of the softness such a hair cut gave when you brushed it.

My oldest son had gotten his hair cut into a crew cut last summer and when I brushed my hand over it, it felt like a soft hair brush I had as a child to brush my hair with.

There was a soft click, with a soft humming, again.

My eyes quickly turned to the barber chairs on either side.

Seeing nothing they returned to the barber chair mom was sitting in.

Connie had her left hand on top of her head, tilting it forward and down a little.

She must be trimming the hairline, I thought to myself, to make the back look neat.

But, her hand rose high up the back, then it went back down and slowly rose again.

After a few movements like this, her left hand gave the back of her head a few downward and upward brushings.

She stepped to the left side and placed her left hand on top of her head.

Then, as I watched in surprising disbelief, she brought the humming clippers up in front of her ear.

Slowly she pushed it up the side of her head, leaving behind hair so short you could not see any hair.

I had seen this cut on men in the service. But, not on a woman.

I wanted to say something.  But, it was too late.

She had already clipped the back of her head this short and now the left side of her head was meeting the same.

As my eyes flickered in disbelief she was now working on the right side of her head.

With a few strokes he was finished.

So, I thought.

She stood behind the barber chair and reached over her head with the clippers humming away.

Placing it in front of the hairline, she slowly pulled the clippers back over her head.

It left hair clipped as short as the sides and back.

Mom closed her eyes as clipping of hair fell before them with each remaining stroke of the clippers.

When she was finished, she put the clippers to rest on the hook under the shelf.

Again she took the hair duster and dusted mom’s face and head, this time smaller hair clippings floated in the air around her head.

As she dusted the back of her head and neck, she undid the cape and let it fall into her lap.

Mom brought up her hands and wiped her face of a few clippings.

Then she brushed them over her head.

This brought a smile and funny face. One a child would make when they have eaten something different for the first time, something that was sour in taste, or something they disliked.

Connie walked to the right side of the barber chair and reached over her lap and removed the cape.

Mom stretched her arms out and uncrossed and recrossed her legs.

I started to get up, with disbelief, when she crossed her arms.

Connie was now tucking a large white towel into the collar of her blouse.

My ears caught the sound of running water in the sink. She reached into a drawer, under the shelf, removing another large white towel.

She tossed the towel into the sink as the warm water, still running, began steaming. While the towel sat in the sink, taking in the warm water, she took a large amount of something from a jar.

Slowly she spread the creamy white substance over mother’s clipped head.

With her head covered with it she worked it in with a soft circling movement.

Her head was rocking from side to side, back to front, as she rubbed the substance covering the clipped hairs.

Wiping her hand, on another towel, she picked up the towel from the sink and wrung it out. When it was wrung out just right she turned and wrapped it around mom’s head.

As the warm towel touched her clipped scalp she pulled her head up as she wrapped it around her head she became relaxed.

I tried to think of why she was doing this.

Why did she put the creamy substance on her head?

Why did she wrap her head in a warm towel?

Two things came to my mind.

One, it was a cream to soften her scalp to prevent a rash from forming as her hair grew back.

But, there was the other.

I could not believe she would do this.

SHAVE her head!

As I tossed these two things, and a few others, around in my mind, Connie removed the towel, wiping the cream from her head.

She had tossed another towel, just like the first, in the sink.

As warm water flowed over it the wet steam flowed upward. I looked around to see the expressions on the other customers.

When my eyes returned to mom, my fears came true.

There was a whining sound coming from where Connie was standing.

Her right hand was on top of a silver object, with his left hand under it.

There was a soft white cream coming from it.

When a pile of the cream had filled her hand she turned to mom and began applying the cream over her clipped scalp.

With all the cream covering her head she again wrapped her head with a damp warm towel. This time she allowed the towel to sit longer and cool down.

She turned to the silver object and filled his left hand with the white cream, turned and removed the towel from her head. Again she applied the cream, covering her head.

Mother looked like a lady with short white curly hair.

Wiping her hand of shaving cream she reached into the small glass cabinet and removed a small elongated object.

As she walked to the right side of the barber chair she flicked her right hand. The object opened up causing a silver flat part to jump out.

Her left hand took hold of the leather strap hanging from the right arm of the barber chair.

With slow up and down movements she sharpened the edge of the flat silver.

Each stroke quickly sharpening the edge more.

When she was sure the flat silver was as sharp as it could be she brought it up to mom’s head.

With short strokes she shaved the remaining hairs, and the cream which covered them, away.

Each movement of the razor revealed the soft white skin which had once been covered with soft strands of brownish graying hair.

Each stroke revealed more of her scalp, as if she was being readied for surgery. With each stroke her smile brightened, her facial features showing more.

It felt like time was slow, as the right side of her head was razored to the scalp.

But, it was not.

It was only in my mind.

A mind that was now filled with disbelief of what it was recording.

My thoughts now began to wonder, “Why?”

Wonder, “Would I do this?”

What would my brothers and sisters say to me?

“Why did you not stop her?” I could hear one of them say loudly.

This question I could not answer myself.

So, how could I answer it for them?

I just sat, as did the other customers, watching my mom have her head shaved BALD.

Bald like her father and grandfather. Baldness my father had averted in his 64 short years.

Baldness my brothers were hoping they would avert like dad.

With each stroke she would rub the fingers of her left hand over the area she shaved, to see if it was smooth.

She would slide the blade over the skin to shave closer and smoother.

Time passed slowly as she revealed more and more of her scalp.

With each stroke she sat, not in disbelief, but of knowing something was happening she wanted to happen.

Like a child at play her mind was learning more of its self and she of herself.

I looked at my watch and the clock on the wall.

They said 6:45PM.

We would be late!

Later than she told me she wanted to be.

But, she did not say why she wanted to be late.

My thoughts were now wondering more and more.

What would others say of her?

What would others think of her?

What would the family think of me?

Why was my own mind thinking of how I would look?

Would I cause us to be later by sitting in the barber chair next?

Her head was tilted to the right as Connie was finishing.

The last few strokes of the straight razor were the slowest of all.

All that remained was strips of shaving cream around the edge where her hairline once was, showing the path of the razor.

Her head was free of hair, bald.

Connie wrapped another warm towel around her head and wiped it clean. Slowly she brushed her hand over mom’s head, feeling how soft her scalp felt.

Mom’s eyes closed as Connie stroked her head. I could see her breathing a little faster as if she were having a sexual experience.

The warm water was steaming the mirror as she put another towel in the sink.

After wringing it out, she wrapped her head again.

Her left hand was being filled with shaving cream from the dispenser.

She turned and removed the towel as she applied the cream to mom’s head.

Se was going to shave her head again.


She rubbed the shaving cream applying a thicker pile.

She opened a small drawer under the shelf and searched through it, like she did the glass cabinet.

This time she came up with a safety razor.

“This will get your scalp smoother,” she said, speaking for the first time since mom sat in the barber chair.

The flowing warm water filled the sink, so the razor could be cleaned of the shaving cream and any hair removed with it.

Slowly she began shaving her head with upward strokes.

Each stroke was short, like a man would take when shaving his face.

I no longer watched the time, only the skill with which Connie shaved mom’s head.

Carefully, not to cut or nick her soft scalp.

Her head was tilted to the left, down, and to the right, as each stroke cleared her scalp of fuzz her fingers had felt.

Smoother to the touch, more sensitive.

When she took the last stroke, her fingers began a searching path over mom’s head.

They felt for hair and when felt they were quickly razored away.

She wanted to get mom’s scalp as smooth as possible, without causing any harm to it.

Finished, she wiped her scalp clean with a cool towel.

With all signs of shaving cream removed she applied a liquid to her scalp, which caused mom to jump as if it were burning.

After patting her scalp dry, she applied a sweet-smelling powder to the hair duster and dusted her scalp.

As she dusted mom’s face her left hand pushed the silver pole on the side of the barber chair forward, causing the barber chair to lower to its lowest point.

Mom reached up and brushed her fingers over her shaven head.

A smile of pleasure came to her lips.

She looked at Connie and they gave each other a wink.

Connie moved her right hand from behind her back.

“Just close your eyes,” Connie told mom.

With slow shaving of the safety razor Connie shaved mom’s eyeborws.

Mom stood up and stepped from the barber chair.

I got up and handed her her purse.

We smiled to each other.

I wanted to question her!

But, could not.

As we walked out the barber shop Connie spoke again. “Come back when you wish.”

Mom turned and gave her a smile and waved.

As we walked out I walked a few steps behind her, to see how others would react to her hair cut.

How she would react to others looking at her.

There were a few heads turned, mostly women who, like myself, could not believe what they saw.

As we walked the thoughts that had been tossing around in my head while watching mom getting her head shaved, began to toss themselves around in my head again.

This time they were moving quicker and asking for answers.

How would my sisters react when she entered Aunt Kay’s apartment?

What would Aunt Kay and her friends say?

Who would greet us at the door?

Soon, these and many more would begin to be answered.

We were walking up the steps to Aunt Kay’s apartment as she began to brush her fingers over her shaved head more.

Was she having second thoughts about going in?

Or, was she wondering why she did it?

Then, it came to me.

“Take care of something!”

“You will have to trust me!”

“I have given this great thought!”

She and Connie never spoke a word after she sat in the barber chair.

Nor did she pay her.

Had she spoken with Connie about this head shaving earlier?

Did Connie know mom wanted her head shaved?

Would mother tell me why?

Mother rang the doorbell, taking a deep breath and letting it out quickly.

Her head turned towards me with an “Oh, God” smile.

The door opened with a quick yank.

On the other side were my sisters, Bonnie and Mary.

Bonnie, the youngest of us girls, was first to see mother.

She had a smile, which turned into a gasp and a glass of red wine for mother.

Mary, the middle daughter, had opened the door and broke into a loud laughter when she saw mother.

She admitted later she thought mother had a skin cap on her head, as to be playing a joke.

Seeing and hearing the reaction at the door Aunt Kay snuck herself up behind my sisters.

“My God Cassy,” she said with a laugh and brought her left hand up to mother’s bald head. “What in the world did you do?”

Mother slowly turned her head from side to side, “Got my head shaved!”

Taking the glass of red wine from Bonnie, giving each of my sisters a kiss on their red cheek.

Mother took Aunt Kay by the arm and walked into the apartment passing my sisters with a brush, one still in disbelief and the other trying to stop laughing.

As I walked past my sisters I watched as all mother’s friends and neighbors, who were invited, gave her a mixture of looks. Some gasping like Bonnie.

Some giving a small laugh as did Mary and others with looks of not knowing what to say or do.

Standing by the couch were my sisters-in-law.

Both came up to mother and gave her a kiss, with a little look of “what the…?” and a somewhat cocked head.

They looked at me with a bigger “what the HELL?” expression.

I just shrugged a “you got me!” with my shoulders.

As the party went about talk was about mother, not her new hair cut.

But, about what she has been doing and some plans she had for a trip.

Something my sisters and I knew nothing about.

Of course, there were some who were still amazed at mother’s brave shaving of her head and there were a few jokes told, which mother accepted with a laugh.

When we left Bonnie was still not saying much to mother.

Like many, being the youngest in a family, she and mother were close, always trying to catch up on the years before she was born, trying to find out more about her older brothers and sisters.

As we left she gave mother a kiss and hug, with tears rolling down her cheeks, trying to find out and figure out why mother shaved her head.

Something mother never clearly told anyone that night.

As we walked the ten blocks home I questioned her, like a detective would a criminal about the whys to a crime.

Like the hardened criminal she answered around the questions.

In a way she was saying “none of your business.”

As I left her at her apartment, I tried one more time.

She patted my cheek softly.

“By now have you not found out mothers do not have to tell her children why she does things?” she told me as she brushed her fingers over her shaved eyebrows.

Walking the last three blocks home, I begin to think about what she had told me about shaving her head.

Why did she do it with me?

All my life we were at odds.

Then again, we were always able to talk things out, more so.

When I got home my husband, Dan, had the children tucked into bed and a big “guess what?” smile.

I got a bear hug, a few pats on the ass with some hip movement, and a kiss that sent my blood boiling.

I knew what he had in mind and he did not have to ask.

Besides I could tell him what mother did tomorrow or the day after that!

As we entwined he told me my brother, Ken, called and I was to call him back as soon as possible.

“He sounded all excited.

What is it about?” he asked.

“Oh, just a little hair flying!” I told him, to which I received a “what?” look.

I knew what Ken wanted.

But, what could I do or tell him?

Sending my husband off to pull the sheets, I called my brother from the kitchen telephone.

There was no other extension to it so no one would hear what we were talking about, until I told them.

Our talk was short and to the point.

“Why did you let mother shave her head?” he asked me with some what anger.

I tried to find words.

But, did not know why myself.

So, how could I tell him, even though I wished I could?

About 10am the next morning, mother called.

“I had told Dan,” mom told me.

“But, he did not believe me.”

“It’s for you,” Ken said as her handed me the telephone.

“She coming.”

“Who is it?” I asked him.

“Your mother,” he told me.

Mother and I talked about the telephone calls from my brothers and some friends who were at the party, who wanted to make sure they saw what they saw.

We talked with child-like laughter as she told me how upset my brother, Dan, was when she told him she had her head shave.

When he asked what she was doing.

“I knew why he was calling,” she said. “So, I thought I would throw a monkey wrench into his call.”

Out talk lasted about an hour.

But, before I hung up I had to try to find out why and why me?

So, I asked her outright.

“Well, your dad liked my hair around shoulder length.  Which I did not.

“Since his death, I have been trying to get over losing him. It was hard because every now and then I would find something of his.

“Then, there was me.

“Every day I would look in the mirror and see how he liked my hair. I knew it would only be time before I would take that step and let him go.

“But, I could not find any style that I felt comfortable with.

“”I was out, two months ago, shopping with Miss Ryan, the lady who lives upstairs above me, and we stopped at this little deli for lunch.

“When our waitress came to take our order she was bald.

“And, the hairlessness brought out many of the facial features that hair hid.

“As the weeks passed I began to think of it as a change, not a statement of some kind. I returned to the deli last week and she and I had a talk about her shaven head.

“After a few days I decided to do it, shave my head.

“The only person I knew who could do it was Connie.

“So, last Tuesday I went to her for a trim. We talked about it.

“I told her about the party last night and asked her if I came in Friday would she shave my head.

“She told me she would take it in steps, in case I changed my mind.

“I told her ‘If I come in there is NO way I am going to leave with hair on my head.”

“She was to shave it as smooth as she could get it.

“And, that is what she did.

“As for why you!

“Just your luck of the draw.

“You called me yesterday morning, telling me you would walk to Aunt Kay’s with me.

“I tried to get to Connie’s earlier.

“But, I got doing things and time went by.

“Like I told Connie, it was Friday and NO hair.”

“After I accepted her reasoning, we said “bye” and hung up.

It has been three months and I see mother once or twice a week.

Her head is shaved every time. She has gotten the shaving down to where she can do it in the shower.

My brothers have somewhat accepted it and Mary takes it like I do,

“What can we do about it?”

Bonnie wants to have her examined by a specialist, if you know the kind.

“A 65-year old mother and grandmother just does not go around doing crazy things like shaving her head,” she says.

I tell her there is nothing we can do about it.

Her grandchildren…

Well, the oldest four think “Grandma’s ‘keen'”, the middle few do not know what to think of her, and the youngest just keeps looking for hair to grab hold of.

Bonnie and I have been talking every week about mother shaving her head.

I tried to convince her why mother did it and how it has helped her over her loss.

Slowly she began to understand, and besides, seeing mother bald was beginning to grow on her, she said.

“With time,” I told her. “Like everything she will stop shaving her head and her hair will grow back.

“Maybe not like dad liked it.

“But, short like mother has said she wanted to cut it.”

Bonnie and mother have begun spending more time with each other over the past three weeks.

And, has come to accept she has a mother who was kind of wild, in some ways, that she still has a few ‘oaks’ to chew.

“As long as she is happy,” Bonnie told me the other day. “I must accept this craziness in her.”

Mother stopped by today as she and Mary were meeting here when Mary got off from work early, to go shopping for some clothing for mother’s trip and to have dinner.

Like many grandmothers she looked forward to being with her grandchildren, like many grandmothers she brought small presents for them.

And, like grandchildren they looked for them. They see things many adults do not, or they do not want to.

My youngest, Tish, age three, was hanging on to her grandmother as the other three opened their presents one at a time.

She stood on the couch staring at her grandmother.

“What is up with you, young lady?” mother asked her.

Tish just looked and put her little hand on top of grandmother’s head.

“You got ‘stickies’ on your head!” Tish told her grandmother.

“Stickies?” mother and I said together.

Mother brushed her hand over her head, “Oh, you mean the little hairs growing out.”

“Stickies,” Tish repeated. “They feel sticky.”

Mother put her arms around Tish giving her a hug and told her, “I forgot to shave my head yesterday and this morning.

“That is why I have ‘stickies’.”

As Tish’s three older brothers joined her in touching grandmother’s ‘stickies’, I got up to go get some lemonade for us.

As I was walking to the kitchen the doorbell rang.

So, I went to answer it first.

“It should be your sister, Mary,” mother said. “She’s meeting me here for three.

“We are going shopping and she promised me dinner,” mother called out to me.

“I want to get home in time to watch the movie on Channel Five I missed it last week,” mother continued kind of loudly as I opened the door.

“It is me, Mom,” Mary said as she came in. “Your thirty-two-year-old single daughter.”

“What has she been telling you?

“Anything I should know about?”

“Nothing,” I said. “The grandchildren were just opening the gifts she brought them.

We are going to have some lemonade, want a glass?”

Mary said “yes” as my middle son came running.

“Aunt Mar,

“Aunt Mar, did you bring me the ‘you know what’?”

“Right here,” Mary said reaching in her purse.

She handed him a brown envelope and he ran off to his room. I did not ask either what it was, I trusted my sisters to use good judgement.

Thirty minutes passed and Mary and mother were off for the evening, as I wished I could join them. As we said our good-byes I asked where they were going to dinner.

“To that little restaurant I told you about a few months ago,” mother told me with a smile.

“First we go shopping,” Mary interrupted. “For some things for your trip.”

After giving the grandchildren a kiss, mother gave me a wink.

“First we have to make a stop a few blocks from here,” mom said.

“I have to take care of a ‘stickie’ problem!”

Quietly I said, “With Mary!”

Mother smiled and kissed me on the cheek.

As we walked mom and I talked about her trip and what she should get.

It was hard on her, I could see, planning a vacation without dad.

But, it was a way of putting the past behind her and starting over.

We turned the corner and mom told me she had to stop at Connie’s barber shop.

At first I thought she was talking about a new gift shop or meat store.

Then, my eyes caught sight of “Connie’s Barber Shop”.

I stopped.

Mom must have known I had stopped because after taking a few steps she turned.

“Got to get rid of the ‘stickies’, she told me, as she pointed to her head.

“Come on,” she called to me, as she waved her hand for me to continue walking. “Your sister was there when I lost all my hair.

“You will only have to watch a little come off.”

I closed my eyes for a few seconds, took a breath, and followed her across the street and into Connie’s Barber Shop.

As we walked in Connie was sitting in her barber chair.

She looked up.

“Hi, Ann,” she said and got out the barber chair.

“Evening Connie,” mom replied as she handed me her purse and got into the barber chair.

“Just a shave this time,” mom told Connie.

“Did not have time the past few days.

“You remember my daughter, Mary.”


“Been a few years.

“But, I remember her most when she was… about seven.

“Tom brought the boys in for crew cuts and she wanted one,” Connie recalled to us, with instant remembrance.

“Do you remember that day, Mary?”

My eyes rolled upward from the magazine as I smiled and told her,


“That was many years ago.”

I went back to reading the magazine as mom told me, “Make it a short magazine, it will not take that long.”

At first I did not understand.

As Connie began tucking a large towel into the collar of her blouse, I knew.

But, I started reading the magazine, a big one, anyway.

Mom started telling Connie about her trip and how hard it was planning it without dad.

Connie told her, “Tom would want you to.”

Mom acknowledged her with a few tears and a quiet, “Yes, I know.

“But, still it is hard.”

As I heard the sound of water running in the sink, I tried to continue reading the magazine.

I remember Sue telling me how hard it was for her not to want to watch.

How the sounds of the clippers, the running water, made her mind uncontrollable and continued to bring her eyes and mind back to the barber chair mother was sitting in.

The thoughts she had tumbling around in her mind. Not wanting to know or see what her eyes were seeing, and her mind recording every activity.

Thinking about why they were going to be late for the party and if she would cause them to be later.

Like her, my mind began wondering about myself.

Thoughts began flip-flopping, thoughts I had never had. My mind began showing photographs of myself.

I shook my head to bring my thoughts back.

With a few blinks of my eyes they came focused on mom in the barber chair.

Connie was wrapping a larger warm towel around her head. She applied light pressure with her hands, shaping the towel around her head.

Mom was relaxed, more than I was.

She turned and took another towel from the ones on the shelf and tossed it into the sink.

The water was hotter, steam was flowing upward fogging the shining clear mirror. Her left hand was being filled with white shaving cream from the dispenser.

The cream looked soft!

I watched as the pile grew in her hand.

Focused were my eyes, my mind wondering.

Slowly, in my eyes and mind, Connie turned and removed the towel.

Tossing it under the shelf where others were.

Her right hand began applying the shaving cream on mom’s head. Gently the cream was spread over her ‘stickies’.

Covering them, hiding them from view.

Head covered, she gently rubbed the cream into the ‘stickies’.

Filling the space between each. Surrounding each to be softened for gentle removing.

Taking the other towel she again wrapped her head.

The steam slowly decreased its upward movement as it cooled.

After a few seconds she turned back to mom, removed the towel, and began lathering her head with more shaving cream.

This time she rubbed it in with circling movements.

Mom’s eyes closed with pleasure as a gentle smile came to her lips.

Her head rocked slowly with each movement.

“She looked like a lady with short white curls,” my mind recalled Sue saying.

“Soon they would be gone,” with that thought Connie took a safety razor from the glass cabinet.

She passed it under the warm running water.

First, she shaved the right side of her head. Each short stroke was followed by a gentle rub of the fingers on his left hand.

Each stroke removed the ‘stickies’ leaving behind darkened skin that matched her tanned face.

The soft white skin that Sue had seen was now tanned with days of sun.

Slowly, but not to damage the skin. Days with no cover, no hair, to block the sun.

Her head was tilted as she worked around the back, her eyes looking upward to see my reactions.

Wondering, as she did when with Sue, what I was thinking.

Wondering, I was…

Wondering what those on the cruise would say about her.

How would she react to their gazes.

Their questions?

What would the single elderly gentlemen say?

She stopped and began searching in the glass cabinet, then in the drawer under the shelf.

Looking for another razor.

My eyes glanced at the other customers.

What were they thinking?

Were any of them here that day?

“Here they are,” Connie spoke as she pulled out a pack of safety razors. Taking one she quickly turned and started shaving again.

Mom laughed when she said this.

I did not see anything funny.  But, to mom it was.

Slowly she was working around the left side.

“A mohawk,” my mind told me as she shaved the last stroke from the side of her head.

“Wow, Wow, Wow,” my mind said.

Like Sue, I could not believe I was watching what I was watching.

Slowly the remaining ‘stickies’ were removed. Slowly her head was becoming bald like that night.

The night she showed up at Aunt Kay’s with her head shaved, shaved to look like her father, her brother, and her uncles.

What would granddad say if he saw his daughter?

With the last stroke only little strikes of shaving cream was seen, outlining the paths of the razor.

Paths which overlapped each other.

She wrapped her head with a warm towel, letting it cool before removing it.

She picked up another razor, searching with the fingers of her left hand for ‘stickies’.

Quickly her right hand razored them away when found.

“Smoothness,” Sue told me as she recalled seeing the same.

Some cream was removed from a jar and spread over her shaven scalp.

It was white, but blended into her scalp as he gently rubbed it over.

She sprinkled some powder on the hair duster and dusted her scalp.

The powder had a sweet smell, one I remembered from visits with dad as a child. The same smell I remember being dusted across my neck as a teenager with short hair.

“Finished,” Connie said to mom, as she removed the towel from her blouse.

Mom brought up her hands and stroked her head.

“Soft and smooth,” she told her.

“Just as the last time,” she replied.

She stood up on the metal arm, holding the footrest up, tossing out her arms, in a “what do you think?” gesture.

Then, she smiled at me. “Feels good.”

I sat looking at her.

I still could not believe I had watched her get her head shaved, as Sue did.

How her facial features showed. She did not look like the mother I grew up knowing.

But, she was.

Like Sue, my mind began to wonder about myself.

Slowly she walked to where I sat.


Our eyes met as she stood in front of me.

My heart began to race, my breathing quickened.

Thoughts without pictures raced through my mind.

“Today is Tuesday…,” my mine told me.

“I do not leave until Friday.

“We could spend tomorrow, or the next day, shopping.”

“We would have more time,” mom said softly, her left hand combing through my hair.

I looked up at her.

“What about your movie?” I asked mom.

“What do you think VCR’s are for?” she said as she continued combing her fingers through my hair. She knew of my thoughts, as she always did.

I smiled.

She sat in the chair next to me.

Connie was standing next to the barber chair, cape in hand.

The barber chair looked big, like it did when I was a child.

Mom leaned over a little, and in a whisper told me, “You can get that crew cut and no one will say ‘no’.”

She patted my lap and made herself comfortable.

I closed my eyes and quickly a picture of me with a crew cut appeared in my mind.

I raised my hand and combed my fingers through my hair.

It had been fifteen years since I had short hair.

Since I last cut it more than a trim.

Each month I thought of cutting it shorter.

I even spent time each month looking through those hair magazines.

Looking for a short cut I would like, one I would feel comfortable with.

One that was me!

Now I had the chance, the chance to go wild like mom.

The past summers I had seen some women with crew cuts.

Ones you would not think would cut their hair this way, like my mother.

No one would have ever thought she would shave her head.

But, she did.

Now, I had to decide…

For the past month I had looked at myself in the mirror, as if I could see myself with short hair, or bald.

I would dream of watching my long strands fall around me, sliding downward.

Friends would tell me how much better I looked when I wore my hair pulled off my face.

My make-up and dress would changed.

Changed to reflect someone who had short hair.

My eyebrows were clipped shorter, and thinner.

Earrings were larger. I even had my nose pierced and wore a stone that matched my dress each day.

I do not know why this change!

It was as if my inner self was speaking out. The real me which I had hidden for years was coming out.

The barber chair began to speak, “Come, leave those long locks around me.

“Get out of me with the real you.”

Slowly I rose and walked to the barber chair.

It smiled at me.

I climbed into its soft green leather and polished stainless steel.

My left foot rested gently on the green leather of the footrest, the other leg smoothly flowing over, crossing the first.

Connie tossed the cape across, a strip of white tissue was wrapped around my neck and the cape pulled up and around my neck.

My chin rose stretching my neck causing more of it to come up from the cape.

As she brushed my hair out, from its center part, she asked, “Crew Cut?”


I looked at her in the mirror, behind where the customers wait their turn.

I looked at mom sitting there with her shaven head and beautiful.

“Sounds like a good summer hair cut,” I told her.

She began spraying a light water mist on my hair, combing it out with each spray of water, to dampen the golden brown strands.

Pinned into four piles around my head, only the strands on the back of my neck hung freely.

I watched in the large wall mirror as Connie chose his instruments of destruction from the shelf.

Their teeth small and large, their blades sharp to the touch, both were strong in their past history.

She turned and combed the hanging strands, once, twice, a third time.

The coldness of the scissors was spread open, one cold blade sliding between the strands and the skin of my neck.

The other slowly closed with a “shirrr” sound cutting the damp hair, to let them fall to the floor behind the barber chair.

Twice the blades opened and closed sending ten inches of damp brown to be swept away for ever.

My neck felt the dampness of hair touching it as she undid a section high in back.

The comb combed once, twice.

The scissors opened and closed twice.

Hair fell to my shoulder sliding down into my cape-covered lap, hair fell to the floor behind me where the first had fallen.

The second section fell with the dampness again touching my skin, again in two cuts of the blades of the scissors the strands fell to met the ones before it.

I watched the mirror to see the third and fourth section unpinned, to fall before my eyes.

Then, to watch the wet hairs fall into my lap.

I watched waiting…

My attention was broken by the sound of “click!”

Connie stood behind me, clippers humming as she tilted my head downward with her left hand.

The black plastic cover of the clippers touched my neck below the hair line, slowly she began pushing it upward.

The humming sound turned to a cutting sound.

High it rose sending inches of hair to the floor behind me.

Once, twice, five times the clippers made upward movement, sending hair to the floor.


The clippers stopped.

She took the comb and scissors from her blouse pocket, her left hand undid the pin holding the hair together, for the last time, over my left eye.

The damp strands fell down covering my face, the inner strands sticking to my face with a wet feeling.

Twice the comb combed a path downward.

Once, the scissors opened and closed sending hair sliding down my shoulders in to my lap, twice, the scissors dropped another heavily into my lap.

I could not see the mirror, only the pile of hair in my lap.

I felt her hand unpinning the last section on the right side of my head.

It flowingly fell for the last time before my eyes.

The comb again made two downward passes, the scissors two quick cuts sending the long damp strands into my lap.

The pile wet and heavy slowly began to dry as it sat waiting its final resting.

My eyes jumped to up to look in the mirror, causing the damp strands before my eyes to part, with the sound of “click”.

She stood, humming clippers in hand, standing on the right side of the barber chair and me.

My head was tilted to the left as her right hand brought the clippers up in front of my ear. The humming sound grew loud, hair fell quickly under its munching teeth.

Falling to my lap, making the pile grow.

She moved the clippers over the top of my ear, working it behind next.

Slowly the clippers moved up the back of my head and neck, where it had worked before.

Step by step she moved around to the left side of my head.

Up behind the ear, over the ear, and the final pass sending the last damp dry strands into my lap.

Her last passes were taken from behind me, as he combed the clippers over the top of my head.

Once, twice, five times and my hair was one length all over.

I looked at the lady in the mirror.

The face I knew.

But, the hair cut I had not seen on her before.

Her eyes were bigger and beautiful.

Her head was like a porcupine.

I watched as she brushed the clippers’ teeth, putting another black plastic cover on.


They jumped into action again.

She stood behind me, clippers humming, they were brought over my head.

Again they made passes over the top of my head, cutting the hair shorter, half the size they were cut to.

Five quick passes and she was now standing on the right side of the barber chair.

With the skill she had used before on my head she began upward movements of the clippers.

Slowly they worked together moving around the back of my head, coming to a final click when the last upward pass was made in front of my left ear.

Standing there she changed the cover on the still humming clippers.

One size smaller.

Her left hand moved to the top of my head, tilting it to the right.

The humming sound began upward movements, working around my head.

Higher it’s path, cutting the sides shorter than I had ever seen on my brother.


They were done.

As she walked to the shelf, her right hand touched the barber chair right arm and pushed the barber chair.

It turned so I could see the shelf and the instruments of destruction.

She began dusting my face of small clipping, around and over the ears and across the neck.

Her hand brushed the top of my head, sending small clippings into the air around it.

I blinked twice, to focus on the lady in the mirror.

I watched as mom walked up behind the barber chair.

Her hand brushed up the back of my neck and head.

Our eyes met in the mirror, we both had smiles of enjoyment.

Connie stood on the left of the barberchair, scissors and comb in hand.

Quickly she began scissoring my hair to form the arch of the head.

To being shaped like a porcupine.

As she worked around mom walked to the left side and brushed her hand over the top of my head.

The feeling was sexual and unbelievable.

With the last snip of the scissors, she looked at us in the mirror.

“What you wanted?” she asked.

I turned my head side to side, a little, to see the final hair cut.

My hands came from under the cape, to brush the brush of hair on my head.

Small clipping clung to them.

I took a deep breath, one of “at last my hair cut.”

“Shorter,” came the voice on the left of me.


“The sides and back need to be shorter.

“A lot shorter.

“And the top, too.

You know, Connie,” mom said.

She looked at me in the mirror.

I turned my head to look her in the eyes.

Slowly she turned the barber chair to face the waiting customers as her right hand grabbing the clippers from the shelf.

It still had the small cover on it, the one she had just clipped the sides and back with.

She stood behind me and brought the clippers over my head singing their song.

With quick passes over my head my hair was reduced to the same length as the sides and back, a small porcupine.

She stood on the right side and humming clippers still in hand, she removed the cover.

With quick upward movements the hairs felt shorter to the touch of the cold metal of the cover-free clippers.

I could not see them as I looked hard in the mirror to find them.

Each pass high up the side, to where my head began to arch.

Quickly she worked around my head, high up the back, high up the left side.

I watched mom smile with each higher movement of the clippers.

Slowly I began to recognize the lady in the mirror.

She was the lady I saw in my dream as a child, as a teenager, and now as a woman.

Finally, I had the hair cut I had longed for.

Now I had the hair cut everyone said I could not have.

I had found myself, the real me.

Not another person’s me.

Connie undid the cape and let it fall down into my lap, covering the pile of hair which once was a crown on my head.

She began tucking a towel in my collar, mom looked up with surprise on her face.

There was a low whining sound, one I, and mom, had heard before.

My eyes caught Connie turning from the dispenser, her left hand had a smile pile of shaving cream.

The pile was not as large as it was when she used the cream on mom’s head.

She began applying the cream to the back of my neck, high up to the bend.

Over the top of the ears and in front of them.

She removed a straight razor from the glass cabinet and began slow upward and downward movements on the leather strap hanging from the right arm of the chair.

Each stroke brought the blade to an edge of sharpness.

With the blade as sharp as she wished, she began shaving the cream and hair away.

Along the hairline, I had seen her do this to my dad and my brothers many times.

But, I did not think she would do it to me.

Across the neck long downward strokes were taken.

I could feel the coolness of the air conditioner as she worked over the left ear.

With the last stroke of the straight razor taken, she brought the towel up and wiped the hairline clean.

I smelled the sweet powder being sprinkled on the hair duster.

The sweet smell as the powder was brushed across my neck, over my ears, and across my face.

She reached over me and removed the cape.

My hands came up to feel the shortness.  The shortness I had never felt on my brothers’ crew cut.

A shortness I had felt on my dad’s face each morning before he shaved his face.

A shortness I had felt on my mother’s head before we came into Connie’s Barber Shop.

As I sat looking at myself, the new me, in the mirror, mom asked, “Is it short enough?”

I turned my head side to side, getting a better look at my crew cut.

“Well!” Connie said, cape still in her hand.

“Is it what you wanted?

“It would not take long to…”

“No, it is all right.

“Maybe I will go shorter next time,” I told him as I stepped out the barber chair.

Mom and I caused heads to turn, her more than me really, as we walked down the street.

To the restaurant where I was to met Angel, the young lady who had inspired “Mother’s surprise…”.

One response to “Mother’s Surprise

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