Contents - This Great Society - Issue 5, Mythology - December 2009/January 2010
Thoughts and Analysis
Illustration by Jim Boraas
Veronica Collins - My Mother's Hair
Illustration by Jim Boraas

The memory of my mother’s hair has stopped me from doing many things. Foolish things. Opening pill bottles, searching about for sharp objects. Leaving with the wrong men when drunk. Her hair, that straight part, and the bobby pins. These things have stopped me from certain disaster.

She used to dance to Vivaldi. But not with my father, who I wouldn't see dance until many years later. She danced with me. There’s a photograph in the family album, the one with the cover missing and the pages all crinkly cellophane stiffened by time. She’s barely more than a teenager, with a round perfect face, soft and beaming. She’s wearing a light blue sweater that glows in the dark, paneled room. My mother is holding me in one arm, grasping the chubbiness of my one-year-old hand with her surprisingly strong and bony fingers. My head is back and I am laughing with all the abandon of ecstasy.

I think I remember this, this moment. I am almost certain I remember this, the way her blonde hair fanned out as we twirled, a spinning glory of light.

She would pin it to either side of her head in those early days. Two bobby pins, practically placed just behind her ears, keeping the waist-length waves in place while she hoisted babies and baked bread. We would wrap her hair around our wrists, holding on for dear life, while she carried us from room to room, from the grocery store to the library, from the car to the lakeshore.

In the lake her hair turned dark and streaming. She was a formidable swimmer, all the softness disappearing in strong strokes under the cold waves. I bobbed above the surface, keeping an uneasy eye on the dock, uncomfortably wedged into a plastic float ring that stuck to my skin and wrinkled my strawberry bathing suit.

She wouldn’t cut that hair. Not for years. The blonde disappeared, turning darker with each of her six daughters' births. Eventually the waist-length waves retreated to her shoulders, but she wouldn’t hear of cutting it further. Through our teen years we would bring home photographs of short feathered styles, wrinkled pages ripped out of too colourful magazines. She would smile and say “Oh yes,” politely, nodding in that absent way of hers.

I cut my own hair a dozen different ways by the time I was twenty. Sprayed it purple at my first music festival, the day my sister poured a bottle of hydrogen peroxide over hers. I bobbed it in high school. Shaved it an inch short after graduation. Dyed it red after a college breakup. Brown after another.

These days it’s growing back. Long. Wavy. Blonde.

I keep a collection of bobby pins on the dresser.



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