I was twelve when my mother pulled me and my sister out of public school. To be honest, we were flunking as we were so I guess it was for the best. But I didn’t know that then, I thought it was the end of the world. I couldn’t rely on my friends to pass tests no more.
My sister, Grace, held the same sentiments but we had no power to protest. So we had to go along with what mom had planned. She relocated us from our house to her mother’s house. My grandma lived on a farm in North Dakota, it is a big plot of land with hardly a creek running through it. She lived in a big, white house with the barn not too far away.
When we arrived, the barn was gone, not gone but altered, taking its place was a longer and bigger schoolhouse. My gran later told me that she had remodeled it over the summer. She knew my sister and I were coming and prepared the schoolhouse right away.
That brings me back to my grandmother and her skills. She had a master’s degree in education from some ivy school I had not heard of and a bachelor degree in art: she’s quite proud of that one. So my mother had no worries that Grace and I would get a proper education.
Ah, yes, the education. It was a very proper education. When my sister and I came to the farm, my mother dropped us off and then she just left us. She did give us a hug and kiss goodbye but from then on, we were at the mercy of our grandmother.
Speaking of the woman, when my mother had left, she came out of her house to meet us. She didn’t look like our grandmother, nor any grandmother, her clothes were like that of an army general’s. Her long, silver hair was pulled back and molded into a sleek bun. Her steely eyes looked down at us with no emotion. Grace tried to give her hug but she stepped aside as to avoid it.
”Hun”,my grandmother said,”You are my pupil, nothing more alright?”
Grace didn’t understand and tried to go in for another hug but again, the old woman stepped aside. Grandma told her to stop and she reluctantly did, the old lady then told us that we were not allowed in her house and to follow her to the schoolhouse. She led us on a tour of the building and showed us where we would be staying. We were to stay in dorms.
I didn’t understand why we had to stay in dorms and she never really gave me an answer. All she told us was orders, my sister and I had to dress in school uniform, which she bought for us and we couldn’t wear anything else on schooldays, and to hurry up and meet her by her car in thirty minutes. She said it so sternly I dressed quickly and when I came to the car, she snapped that my tie was kitty-quompus. I straightened it and we waited for Grace by the car. When she took her sweet time, my grandma was not thrilled. She went to go get Grace and when she came back, Grace knew not to take her sweet time ever again.
In the car, my grandma took us to town. It was quite interesting, the ride, I hadn’t been this far north before. We never got to see grandma much as babies and maybe that was a good thing. I don’t know how to feel about the situation.
Anyway, back to the trip to town. We drove into town and down Main Street, my grandmother parked the car in front of an old, brink and mortar shop. It had a red awning that unfurled two inches ahead of the shop. By the spinning pole, Grace and I knew it was a barbershop.
Grandma never took us here before but papa, before he passed, knew the owner. She ushered us inside and hailed the older gentlemen working there.
”Tim”,she greeted, shaking his hand,”You know my girls right? Grace and-“
”Arianna”,Tim finished the sentence,”Yes I remember them. Let me guess, they need a haircut for school”
”Well”,grandma replied,”I am now their teacher, see. And I want my girls to have proper hair in the classroom, you know, no distractions”
”Ah”,Tim said,”Welp, who’s first?”
Grandma quickly tugged on my sleeve to come and sit in the barber’s chair. I did as she instructed and sat daintily for him. He, in turn, wrapped me up in a light blue cape that looked and felt like a blanket. His hands secured it tightly behind my head.
”Alright, Missy”,Tim smiled,”Shall we give you a short bob, no?”
At the suggestion, my grandmother came over and placed her hand on my head of black hair,”I want them both to have the same style. A number one on top and zero-zero on the sides”
I quickly freaked but she rebuked me to stay seated or else. She went on to say if I made any more complaints or movement, I would be shaved bald as a result. With that in mind, I dare not act out in her eyes.
Tim was reluctant to give me what my grandma had ordered but if he knew if he refused, she would just shave me and my sister’s heads herself. I guess he was the lesser of two evils. He looked down at me, mouthed something, and took his clippers. My grandma forced Grace to sit on the couch nearby next to her as Tim applied a number one clipper guard to his device.
The hum of the clippers were so scary to me but again, I dare not mover. I sat still in the chair as the clippers ran straight up my nape and over the top of my head. My hair tumbled down and I saw it all in my side view. I wanted to cry as soon as the clippers swept my bangs from off the front of my face but I managed to hold the tears back.
My head buzzed down, Tim dusted my head off and removed the guard. He scaled up my sides with the clippers and flicked off the bits as he went. When all was set and done, I couldn’t recognize the girl in the mirror: she looked so pretty, I said it only in my head.
Tim released me from the cape and as I dismounted, here my grandma ushered my sister to the chair. She looked at me with awe and nervousness on her face. Like me, grandma gave the threat she told me but unlike me; Grace was a fussy child. All she had known was long, untamed hair and grandmother wanted that weeded out of her. Tim might’ve regretted it, but he did the deed.
Grace had no more tears to cry when the cape was removed, her chestnut tresses lay dead on the checkered floor. My grandma took her sweet time stroking the ten year old’s bald head. I couldn’t understand why Grace would still give her grandma a hug after what she did.
Tim asked,”Is that it?”
My grandmother looked at him quizzically,”You know what. No, that is not it. I have a bald granddaughter while the other has an inch of hair on the top of her head”
”She didn’t fuss, ma’am”,Tim shot back with a hearty laugh.
”True”,my grandmother shrugged,”But it would be criminal of me to favor one over the other”
”That’s not fair”,Tim exclaimed.
”I am a woman who knows what is best for my granddaughters education”,she countered,”And I’m sure Arianna won’t mind a shorter haircut”
Tim reluctantly took me back into the chair. I hadn’t had inch of hair on the top of my head for more than twenty minutes when the clippers finished the job. I was so sad to see the last of my hair fall from head in flakes. And when it was done, I was truly bald like Grace.
The two of us girls bald, Tim again asked,”Is that it? Ma’am”
”I guess I could get a trim”,my grandmother laughed,”I’m kidding. If I am to teach my girls physics and such, I need no distractions as well. Shave me to, why don’t ya Tim”
Tim and us girls were a bit surprised at those words. But Tim was all too pleased to do to my grandmother what she ordered him do to us. The clippers hummed as they took off the silvery hair of my grandmother. Like Me and Grace, when Tim released her, she was bald.
And that was it, my grandmother paid for the shaves and before we left, she said,”The girls and I will come back in every Sunday for a shave, alright?”