Wednesday, April 22, 2009


My daughter hates brushing her hair. I don’t blame her. I know it hurts. I know because my hair was just like hers when I was younger. Fine and thin and prone to colossal tangles.  With every  stroke, the brush yanked strands out of tender follicles and I would yelp.

Now, having kept it fairly short most of my life, my hair is quite thick—still very fine, but, as I’ve been told by several hair stylists, I have a lot of it. It doesn’t hurt to pull it out anymore. That could be because I killed all the nerve endings in my scalp with my childhood brushing. But more likely it’s just because I’ve gotten more hard-headed as I’ve aged.

Eiledon, poor child, is only 9 and still has hair that is fine and thin and prone to colossal tangles. It doesn’t matter how often I remind her that if she’d brush it every night and every morning, she could minimize the agony, she still waits until I walk away and “forgets” to finish brushing. When I stand over her and insist, the outcome usually involves lots of threats and screaming, gallons of detangling spray and heartfelt promises never to let that happen again.

Sunday morning was the last straw. As we got into the car to go to church, I handed her a brush and said, “You have until we get to church to brush your hair. Then I’m going to brush it.” I stayed very matter-of-fact about it. In fact, I was ready to congratulate myself on my wonderful parenting when she exploded into a paroxysm of rage. My nerves, already shot through with hairline cracks, completely disintegrated. I checked the self-congratulation and launched into my unfortunate parenting fallback. I screamed back at her. This is a highly effective parenting technique. For other people’s children. With Eiledon, it just escalates things.

I pulled into the church parking lot mentally tallying the medical bills for my extreme TMJ flare-up. I left her in the car and went in, fuming. (Gavin, while he can be just as belligerent  as his sister, adopts this very Eddie-Haskell-like persona when Eiledon flies off the handle. It’s as if he knows he’ll be cut off at the knees if he so much as ventures an opinion in the middle of our face-off. Instead, he becomes the perfect angel child and says, “yes, Mama” and “Can I get the door for you, Mama?” and “I'll carry your bag for you, Mama” in the most ingratiating manner.)

My poor father was the first one to ask, “How are you?” and I’m sure he regretted it at least a little. He and my mom kindly reminded me of my own childhood hair-brushing issues, which I had to concede. Then my mom said something like, “You know, I didn’t just keep your hair shorter because it was easier. I kept hoping it would grow in thicker and stronger.” “It did,” I replied, thoughtful.

Not that cutting Eiledon’s hair would be a simple solution. We’d been down that road before. Every time I told her she either had to brush it or we were going to have it cut short, the result was a fairly substantial meltdown. Once before—two years ago maybe?—I had followed through and convinced her it was the best (and her only) option. It was time to go there again.

After a healthy cooling-off period, I sat down with my daughter. “Eiledon,” I said, “I’m sorry I was such a bear this morning. But we need to come up with a better solution for your hair. If you’re not going to brush it and take care of it, you really can’t keep it long.”

“I wish you didn’t have to brush long hair,” she replied, sullen. It was her mantra.

“But you do,” I insisted. “Maybe it’s time to cut it again. It will grow back and it will probably grow back thicker and stronger like mine did.”

“Fine,” she scowled. “One more time and that’s it forever!”

“I can’t promise that. I had to wear my hair short a lot for it to get this thick. And it doesn’t even hurt when I pull it out anymore.” Inspiration struck. “What if we donate your hair to Locks of Love? They make wigs for kids who lose their hair because of illness.”

“Megan did that once,” she said, warming to the idea. “That could be cool.”

Feeling relief, I said, “I’ll check it out on line and see what I can find out.”

I found out that our local Fantastic Sam’s would do it. No appointment necessary. I went to bed Sunday evening with a sense of real accomplishment and the promise of significantly reduced drama in my household.

The next morning, when I was in the shower, God said, “You know, Rebekah…” I hate it when He does that. “You know, if you really love that little girl, and if you really want to show her, you could donate your hair, too.”

My hair. My grandmother’s hair! The hair I’d been growing for EIGHT YEARS. My long, thick, wonderful, luxurious—well, crap!

I wandered out of the bathroom with a towel on my head. Eiledon and Gavin were munching on cereal and watching cartoons. “Eiledon,” I said, “how would you like it if I got my hair cut for Locks of Love, too?”

I know she can be a real challenge to me, but let me tell you, when that little girl gets excited about something, the entire world brightens three or four shades. She just lit up with a huge grin and yelled, “AWESOME!” We went straight to the salon after I picked her up from school. An hour and 21 inches of hair later, it was done.  They didn't even charge for the cuts.

You know, not many things in life are completely clear. But this decision, this show of solidarity with my wonderful daughter, this was the best decision I’d made all year.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Load of Scrap

I love to scrapbook. I can’t do it on a regular basis, but when I manage to pull out and organize all my pictures and all the ticket stubs and kids’ artwork and play programs and Mothers’ Day cards that I’ve stuck into a bag over the past couple dozen months, I pour myself into the process.

Still, I can’t help but characterize the scrapbooking hobby as existing at the intersection of visual art and narcissism. I mean, really, if I have any illusions that anyone in the coming generations of my family will spend a tenth the time poring over these gargantuan tomes as I’ve put into assembling them, I’m kidding myself. No matter how the scrapbooking industry (and it’s a monster, I tell you) tries to convince me that I’m creating lasting heirlooms for posterity, I realize that precisely archiving every annual vacation in Michigan, every elementary school carnival, every trip to every park every summer is a little… excessive? Redundant? Irrelevant?

What makes those items from my ancestors so terribly priceless is that there are so few of them. My Nth-generation photocopy of the newspaper announcement of my grandmothers’ high school graduation is a little piece of otherwise obscure history and the fact that I so strikingly resemble her (in the barely discernable photo) gives me a mysterious sense of connection to the timelessness of existence. If my kids get to re-live every event of their lives at the turn of a page, will that make them feel more connected to their history, or, ironically, less so because it loses its impact? Will my grandchildren and great-grandchildren care about the fourteenth time my kids dyed Easter eggs? Even if they get to see pictures of the other thirteen times?

Why do I scrapbook, then, if not to enrich the lives of future Fergus and Moir descendents? Or to purchase a small measure of earthly immortality? Let’s be honest: I scrapbook for ME. Because it’s fun. Because I love the look and feel of patterned and textured paper. I get excited by the way a page pulls together because that one torn piece of cardstock perfectly brings out that one spot of blue on my daughter’s skirt. When I finish a spread and pull out the photos for the next one, I get to re-experience whatever little moment I may have had with my husband or children or parents on a given day. And sometimes I look at a photo I don’t remember taking or there’s something in a familiar photograph that I’ve never noticed before and it gives the entire experience a new spin.

Are there boring pages? You bet. I won’t be sad if I never have to scrapbook another trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s so long as I live. Nothing changes except the clothes we’re wearing and frankly, carrying around a camera doesn’t do much to enhance the experience. Who knows? Maybe my scrapbooks will become more focused and meaningful the longer I do it and while my earlier books may seem excessive to future generations, that later ones will carry that sense of mystery that will make my great great great grandchildren say, “I wish she’d scrapped more.”

Meanwhile, I’ll be hauling a trunk-full of supplies up to my church so I can scrap all next week because I still haven’t finished 2007 (or anything before 2001) and, darn it, I ENJOY it! Scrap on, my friends. Scrap on!