My Mother, The Hairdresser

When I was young, my mom worked at the K-mart salon, making a living giving perms to the elderly while they were shopping.  I would go to work with her, watching her flawless beauty as she mingled with clients.  She was elegant then, with long hair that reached the bottom of her shoulder blades in waves like the ocean cascading against the sand.

Her hair, dark and lovely, was unusually long.  On warm days, she would pull it back in a loose braid at the nape of her olive colored neck, keeping her bangs feathered and full of Aqua Net, a style she couldn’t quite let go of.  In the evenings, she would drag me, by the hand, over to the couch so I could brush her long locks as she watched television.  I would fill it with colorful barrettes, pretending I was the stylist and she was my client.  Of course I wanted to be just like her.

One summer day, her Irish temper ran to a boil and she impulsively chopped every bit of it off.  We both stood in the kitchen, a mane at our feet, and cried, mourning the change.

Eventually, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, she left that job at K-mart and started styling hair in our kitchen.  My mom would wash clients’ hair in the same porcelain sink that she cleaned our Tupperware, never once dropping the Virginia Slim hanging from her burgundy lips.  Gold bracelets rattled as she scrubbed, then rinsed the suds with the faucet. I watched her long fingers, painted brightly, as she permed, trimmed and shaved, always in aww of her artistic flare.

After many more years, one more child, and a nursing degree, my mom eventually stopped doing hair.  Though she loved hairdressing, she thought that nursing, and helping people, was her true calling.  And it was.  Her kind-hearted, selfless nature made her the perfect kind of nurse.  Unfortunately, not long after she started nursing, she also found out she had cancer.  By the time the doctor spotted it, in her routine colonoscopy, it had already metastasized, and overtaken her body, spreading from her colon to her liver and her lymph nodes.  Though she was against it, she started aggressive chemotherapy to salvage what she could of her body.  My mom was devastated because she could no longer practice nursing.

In the end, the chemotherapy only delayed the inevitable.

Four years later, on the day that she died, cancer and the poison of her drugs forced everything about her, including her hair, to change drastically.  It was no longer thick and flowing, but instead brittle and matted to her ashen skin.  Her eyes were closed tight, as she slept away the pain with a morphine drip.  I used her brush to gently untangle her thinning brown tufts and move them away from her eyes, though I don’t know if she could feel my presence.  I wanted so much to remember how it was to be on our couch as a child, filling her waves with colors of the rainbow, but the papery, unnatural feel of her hair was forbidding me.  Still, I let my fingers linger there, wishing for a different outcome.

Despite my mom being gone more than four years, I think of her often.  When I think of her, it’s sometimes as the hairdresser, or sometimes as the nurse, but always as the most beautiful woman; selfless, loving and easy to get along with.

And today, more than ever, I want to be just like her.

Categories nonfiction, UncategorizedTags , , , , , , , , , ,

24 thoughts on “My Mother, The Hairdresser

  1. That was beautiful. The memories, emotions and your pain. I could feel it there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Parul. It was emotional to write, so I’m glad it came through that way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful and moving.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So beautiful… Your mom lives on in you 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Yoneeta! I feel her there every day.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This was such a beautiful piece and a great tribute to a wonderful person. you look so much like your mother! You certainly have her smile. Xox

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Melony! And thank you for your help with this one in the beginning.


  5. Your mom is so beautiful and has gorgeous hair.. 🙂


  6. Beautiful post, Danielle! I love the descriptions and can imagine what it must have felt like brushing her hair and adorning it with barrettes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Stacey! This one was like therapy.


  7. Connie Brueshaber July 25, 2016 — 7:01 pm

    I remember your mom in the kitchen doing hair. I was one of those people. I then thought she was beautiful. LIttle did I know what a beautiful person she really was. Years later I told her so. She also was a very humble lady. I too miss her.


  8. A moving and heart-felt sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Danielle, this piece was so moving! I think (from your pictures, of course) that you look a lot like her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww thanks, Hema! That is the best compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Beat About The Book July 28, 2016 — 12:49 am

    I think my earlier comment got spammed so here goes again. Your mother is beautiful and she sounds like a wonderful person too. I love how you write straight from the heart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That means very much to me. And I do write straight from my heart. I’m glad your can see that.


  11. A wonderful tribute to your mother!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Beautiful piece. I can see your mother, hear the bracelets, smell the cigarette and feel the adoration you felt for her. I am so sorry for your loss but your tribute words to her are very moving.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! How did you find this post, if you don’t mind me asking?


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