*The Curls circa 2009*
My mom is not a sentimental person. At all. She gave away most of my childhood dolls and dance costumes without so much as a backward glance, sent most of my old papers into the recycling bin, and didn’t cry when dropping me off at college (though I know she missed me desperately!)
So you will understand that when she does hold onto something, you take note.
As a toddler, I had ringlets. Beautiful, big, bouncy golden-brown ringlets. And for as long as I can remember, they have been sitting in an envelope in my baby book. So, I guess they meant a lot to her. Even after they were shorn, she couldn’t part with them.
Which made me feel better about my resistance to the idea of cutting Tiny Dancer’s curls. You should’ve seen her adorable curls. Oh, they were adorable. The summer humidity which wreaks havoc on my own hair, turned hers into a halo of bouncy ringlets.
But with the advent of fall and the exit of the sticky heat, her hair fell straight along with the leaves. Long and increasingly scraggly. The ringlets were still hidden under the straight pieces. Just enough to tease me. I knew if I cut them, they would not come back. If we could just make it until the return of the humidity, I thought, I could see those beautiful curls one more time! But two factors conspired against me:
1)She twirls her hair just like I have since I was a baby. Twirls it into fine, tiny knots that take an eternity (and a Beauty and the Beast showing) to comb out.
2)Her hair started growing like wildfire.
The knots were so hard to get out, and the hair so wild, I ended up putting it into a ponytail or a bun most of the time. But who cares that her hair hadn’t looked angelic, let alone cute, in months. I could not.let.go. My baby girl’s curls! I am the opposite of my mother in this respect. I breathe wistfulness and I daily feel the ache of moments I’ll never have again.
So the curls remained.
Through gentle hints from my mother-in-law, my good friends, my sister, and the mothers at her ballet class, I remained firm.
We will wait until summer.
The knots, though. They grew worse. And on Saturday I told her we weren’t moving from the TV until I could take a fine tooth combed through her entire mane. It took a while. I made Rockstar promise if anything ever happened to me, he would do this weekly. I’m not sure anyone else would have the patience.
And as I stared at her wet hair, nearly touching her hip bones, I heard that voice inside of me:
“It’s time to let go.”
And so before I could think twice, and craving the bouncy, healthy look I knew was just a few snips away, I grabbed the scissors.
It was good that her hair was wet. I could hardly tell how much of the curl I was cutting.
I layered the front a little and shaped it a little in the back.
We’re okay. We’re doing this.
‘What are you doing, mommy?” she asked while watching, “Be Our Guest.”
“I’m cutting your hair, baby. It’s going to look really pretty.”
“Okay.” Her eyes hardly left the television. So unruffled by the cataclysmic change going on around her.
And then there they were: a pile of brown curls, unceremoniously sitting on my coffee table.
I gathered them up, and stuffed them into a white envelope. “Tiny Dancer’s Curls. February 2011.” I wrote. I’ll keep them just like my mom did.
She and I walked upstairs and I blow dried her hair. It was swingy and adorable. She smiled an enormous smile as she looked at her reflection. I put in a new bow and smiled at my little cutie. It felt good.
But moments later, that nostalgia would creep up on me.
“I want to cry. She’s growing up! The symbol of her babyhood is gone.”
Then a few minutes later:
“It’s okay! She looks lovely. It was time.”
The ping and the ponging of emotions that comes as we face the inevitable march of time and bittersweet milestones.
But as the hours and days have passed since the cut, I feel myself pinging less and ponging more. Which is to say, I feel happy as I watch her gladly swinging around her now shoulder length hair.
And it looks good. Really, really good. A million sincere compliments from friends and family reinforce this.
I am reminded that whenever we let go, there is always something good on the other side.
I am reminded that I will fight this battle over and over in my tenure of mother. And that the right choice is always to let go. To bravely accept that things are changing and that it’s okay. That it’s useless to hold on to knots and scraggly strands in an effort to slow down the passage of time.
So much changes. And that can be hard. But I know that just like the girl without the curls is still my precious daughter, the most important things will always stay the same.
*The Finished Product*