Sunday, October 9, 2011

sunday haircuts

"Are you ready for your haircut, baby?"

He tugs on his hair. His long nods move his entire body. He teeters into the bathroom.

We debate whether or not to undress him. We debate if I should hold him, or let him be. Meanwhile, he sits on the stepstool, waiting. This whole ordeal has something to do with his hair, he has figured that out. He bends his head down so I can see his mop of a hair. I kiss him, and muss it all up. I love when he gets his hair cut. It makes him look like a big boy. I ask Sam to keep the top a little long.

"The Ivy Leaguer, please." No one laughs.

Thomas sits for a moment before he realizes Sam is pulling out the clippers. And then he remembers that they are loud. He cries, exaggerates tears. He covers his face in his hands and buries them in Sam's leg. Sam is always so skilled at these things. He just starts, through the tears and stomps. He knows how to hold more reassuringly than me, more adeptly maneuvering the children into place to cut, tweeze, pull, brush, dress, or wrap. It is the nurse in him. Something he must have learned in a classroom, I think. Or perhaps it is just the confidence that he possesses. He exudes trust and ability. I used to watch him dress Beezus in the first days of her life, head tilted like the Victor dog trying to memorize each gesture. I'd try to imitate his movements the next day, but would inevitably, somehow, make the baby cry. It took me six months to figure out how to get a shirt on and off effectively. I would end up just pulling hard, upwards. It is the way of my people. If you pull hard enough towards the hole, it will come off.

I sit in front of Thomas, cross-legged. Trying to comfort him, my hand brushing his leg. "It is okay, mijo. It is going to be okay. It won't be long." I am making it worse, I think. So I grab the phone, set up the camera. It is an elegant dance between father and son. Sam adjusts to the boy, moves with him. He manages to cut his hair in the back and sides without holding him down. It isn't until the last clean up, that he gently holds his jaw in his big Daddy hands, steadying his head for the last details.

Beezus always collects the hair in a little bag. She saw me do this when I first cut his hair. A lock of hair for his box. Now it is all of it. She keeps it in some magical treasure chest. I still haven't found where, but I suspect it will be a creepy, horrifying affair when I do.

"Mama, do we want the birds to make a nest of our hair or not?"
"Oh, okay. I'll keep it safe for Thomas."

The baby hears his name and screams louder. He is eighteen months now. There are words. There is running. There is rule and instruction following. There is a little ego in there, trying to scream its existence. There are complicated strategies involving the stealing of dolls and opening food bits just to get Beezus mad. She laughs at it, but he still tries.

It is all so tragic--this haircutting business. It is all so horrible. He is trying to tell us. He is angry and scared. And yet, I can't help but want to bottle this moment. I take more photos.

He cries, yes. It is painless. Hair cutting is just sitting still and getting gently tickled. We know this, us seasoned adults. But something changes in them from baby to toddler to kid. And suddenly, they stop crying when their hair is cut, their teeth are being brushed. It is only a short time until they understand that this scalping thing ends. Then we will all gawk and oooo and aaaah, and say "How handsome." And they stop crying. But at eighteen months, it is all so immediate. I just want to capture those times of his still being a baby. The moments I will forget. The moments of tears and clippers.

Sunday haircuts.

There is nothing special, or unusual about the event. No feasts to be cooked. No baseboards to be dusted. No special serving dishes to be washed. No gifts to be made or bought. But it is a holiday nonetheless.


  1. We have been talking a lot at our place about ritual and tradition. This is a perfect- and perfectly beautiful- example of what I mean.

  2. So beautiful. It's amazing how they just feel everything so powerfully at that age. 18 months is just wonderful and just exhausting, in my opinion.

    Please tell us when you find the box of hair.

  3. How do you manage to write so well about hair? :)

    I am also quite curious as to where she is storing all the hair.

  4. Ohhh those moments when they are little. They truly are priceless. My 3 year old says y in place of l... as in 'I yove you'. I want to eat him up.. sigh.

  5. "Mama, do we want the birds to make a nest of our hair or not?"
    "Oh, okay. I'll keep it safe for Thomas."

    Thank you Beezus for a much needed smile tonight.


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