The barber scissors. There they were, just where they've been all my life, in the second drawer of the little chest of drawers outside the bathroom door in my parents' house.
Well, not quite where they've been all my life. It's a different chest of drawers, not the cardboard one I remember from childhood but the wooden one that replaced it somewhere in the last few decades. Oh, and it's a different bathroom, too, in a different house.
But on a recent visit to my parents, I found the familiar scissors right where they belonged. They still looked lethal, too, with their slender black blades. When I made a comment to my mother about them being around as long as I could remember, she said, "Oh, longer than that. I had those before we were married."
Let's see, 1947 . . . count the decades on my fingers . . . last fall was my parents' 65th wedding anniversary. That means the scissors are nearly 70 years old.
They're still being used, too, though it's been a while since they've known the workload they had in their heyday. Back then, my mother gave regular haircuts to four daughters, my father, and sometimes herself.
I remember sitting on a stool in the kitchen, a plastic cape around my shoulders, listening to the snip, snip of those scissors at the back of my neck and watching severed bits of my hair accumulate on the floor. As the stylee rather than the stylist, it would be my job to sweep it up later. The biggest challenge was holding my head still at the same time I tried to direct puffs of air out of my extended lower lip so they would dislodge the tiny hairs that were tickling my nose.
Most of those haircuts turned out quite well, too. The one exception was the time my mother worked on my hair for a long time without getting it to come out right. When she got frustrated, my father—whose hair-trimming skills were usually reserved for horses' manes—took a turn. Eventually they both gave up and fell back on the reassuring philosophy, "It's just hair; it will grow."
When my grandmother saw me the next day, her first words were, "Don't ever let your mother cut your hair like that again!"
As if I, a mere kid, could be expected to challenge the woman wielding those wicked scissors.
At least my mother never drew blood. As I did once, years later, when I was cutting my young son's hair and nicked his ear. We were angry at each other at the time, and I felt guilty for years, wondering whether at some subconscious level I might have done it on purpose.
Maybe one of those traumatic trimmings has had something to do with my long-time reluctance, as an adult, to do anything different with my hair. I started letting it grow when I was in high school in the 60's, kept it long and straight during the hippie era of the early 70's, and mostly just left it that way because it was easy.
Besides, I never could decide what else to do with it. Oh, I've made a few changes over the years. At some point I cut bangs (which the British call a "fringe," a rather more accurate description, really). I chopped it to shoulder length now and then; even had it permed a few times.
But this week, I got it layered and cut to chin length, the shortest it's been since eighth grade. My neck feels naked, and when I wash my hair it feels as if there's nothing there. I haven't mastered the art of hat-wearing. (Mash it flat? Stuff the ends in? Let them stick out?)
But it looks nice. It's an appropriate style for a person with grandchildren taller than she is. Even if said person still thinks of herself as a brunette, despite increasing silver evidence to the contrary. I like it—mostly. I think. I'm pretty sure.
And on the days I don't, there's always that reassuring bit of tonsorial wisdom. "It's just hair; it will grow."