Wednesday, June 4, 2008

My Grandmother's Hair

Somewhere I have a photocopy of an old newspaper clipping announcing my Grandmother Fergus's graduating high school at the top of her class. Though her photo looks more like a drawing in my nth-generation copy, it's clear enough to notice her striking resemblance to me. Or mine to her, I should say.

There was a time I was not so pleased about this. My grandmother had a strong German nose which, more obviously than any other feature, I inherited. The memory of walking into my bathroom at eight months pregnant, in a cotton night-gown with my hair in a bun and being startled to see my grandmother looking back at me from the mirror will always stay with me.

Which brings me to her hair--that bun I mentioned. My grandmother never had one of those old-lady short perms that halo the head in order to hide the thinning. She wore her hair in a bun at the base of her head all day every day. Only rarely did I see it any other way, and then it was down. At bedtime, once in a great while, she would emerge from her bedroom at the cabin in her nightgown and when she would turn to go back in, I would see her long hair trailing down her back. It was fine and gray, and it was wavy from having been bound up all day. It must have reached close to her waist. I remember thinking how cool it was that my grandma had long hair. Not even my mom had long hair.

At the moment, my hair is longer than it has ever been. It has reached the point where I can no longer braid it without bringing it forward over my shoulder. It is so long that when I roll over at night, it gets caught under my shoulders and needs to be pulled free. Sometimes I worry about snagging it in the weight equipment at the gym. And I adore it! Because just recently I realized that I have my grandmother's hair. When I pull it into a bun it has to be wound at least four times and with each twist I think of my grandmother and smile.

Someone once told me that I was lucky I was still young enough to wear my hair long, because at her age (40-ish) it just wasn't acceptable to do that anymore. Hah! My grandmother was 84 when she died, and I assume her hair was as long as ever. How cool is that?

Although there are still moments I think it might be nice to have a nose job, by-and-large I have "grown into" my face and my grandmother's nose suits me. Not the inheritance I might have chosen, perhaps. Her hair, on the other hand, I adore, just as I did in those childhood moments at the cabin. I am grateful to have it and I only hope I can do it justice.

And anyway, wearing my hair long makes my nose look smaller.

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