The marvelous and brilliant Pearl of "Pearl, Why You Little...." left me a comment on my last blog which forced me to stop what I was doing (getting ready to clean stinky cat boxes.....this is Sunday and Flo is off) and immediately put on my Blogging Hat (the one with the upswept brim and just a touch of Maribou feather) and muse about the scene her comment brought to mind.
For any of you who missed my last blog or Pearl's comment, I had mentioned that it wasn't till I broke my hip that I discovered that I was not as fiercely independent as I thought, and that I really adored being waited on hand and foot. And Pearl said the following:
" What I'd really like is someone to fix my hair, daily. Do you think that will ever happen?
I can't imagine breaking a hip. I may find out some day. I turned 50 just a month ago and have been reflecting on the differences in the ages that I've already been. What will come?"
Pearl,dear.... I cannot answer your question, but this one is for you)
I had an instant flashback to a moment in circa 1939......Lois is sitting on a chair in the kitchen of our house in Philly trying desperately to disappear or be somewhere else. My two best friends, Sylvia and Stella are standing against the wall waiting for me to walk to school with them and wishing they were somewhere else. My sainted Mamma is stoically combing my unruly locks trying to get the curly stuff to be smooth and flat in a few places and probably wishing she were somewhere else. (I was an unattractive child, fat and clumsy and totally unable to make my hair look like anything but a tangled mop....hence my Mom tried to make things a little better.....that is how it all began)
And then it happens....what we all have been dreading. Enter my Father, brows furrowed in rage stomping heavily into the kitchen screaming, "When are you going to make the Brat comb her own hair.....expletive, expletive." Whereupon (get this......so help me.....honest truth) he leaps onto a chair under the kitchen window, opens it and leans out bellowing to all of
West Philadelphia, "Edna is combing Lois's hair, Edna is combing Lois's hair!"
I sincerely believe that he believed that this performance would so shame me and my Mother that we would immediately reform. She would drop the comb, I would pick it up and start managing my coiffure from then on and we would all burst into song......(I do not know what song would be appropriate)....and perhaps dance. That did not happen. We all stared into space and pretended we were somewhere else. My father, defeated but still fuming, would stomp out and we could breathe again.
(incidentally, I never found out what the neighbors thought of this...but then, they always looked at me a little funny..)
This scene took place most mornings for several years........except for those periods when my father was so permanently enraged at us over something or other that he was not speaking at all that week or month. . (Well, I confessed up front in my profile that I was from a dysfunctional family). It might have continued into my teens and twenties had I not desperately figured out a solution. One day, after gym, I was removing my stinky gym suit and staring in despair at my sweat soaked locks when it occurred to me that, if I were to get my shoulder length hair cut into a short bob, I could probably just tousle it into place with my fingers since it was so obstinately curly that it did whatever it wanted anyway.
So, I did.
And I wish I could say that we all lived happily ever after, but that would not be quite true. However,
West Philadelphia would never again have to hear : "Edna is combing Lois's hair."
The New Yorker covers: August 18, 1975
8 hours ago