When Coral was 16 years old, my father buzzed the back of her head with hairclippers, leaving her with a bald stripe up the middle of her beautiful red curls. I don’t know what possessed him to do that, and I don’t know why he laughed so cruelly aftward, admiring his handiwork as she wept. But I know you won’t be surprised when I tell you that was a watershed moment for my oldest sister. She vowed then and there that she’d never let him near her hair, ever again.
Even as a grown-up, she refused to get a haircut, though from time to time, she talked about getting a few inches trimmed from the bottom. She’d lament the fact that it wasn’t stylish. People teased her about it, which made her sad. In fits of frustration, she sometimes took up the scissors herself, but she never let go of its length. Much like Sampson in the Bible, she drew a mysterious strength from her long locks, and she wouldn’t allow anyone else to touch them.
Until this year, on Christmas Eve. By some miracle, Coral agreed to a mini-makeover, as an early Christmas gift. And by some miracle, my hairdresser’s last appointment of the day became available. And so it was that Coral finally decided to shed her past, decades after that painful incident.
As we drove to the salon, Coral was animated…moreso than I’d seen in a while. She said she was excited, but even so, I sensed an undercurrent of fear. These are her "before" pictures, taken right before her haircut. (She’d already lopped off about 5 inches with her kitchen shears, in a midnight fit of frustration.)
As soon as Coral settled into Deborah’s salon chair, she folded in on herself, frightened eyes peeking out through a wall of hair. My hairdresser suspected that would be the case, as (with Coral’s approval) I’d given her a brief overview of my sister’s harrowing experience. So she moved very slowly and deliberately, locking eyes with Coral in the mirror. She asked lots of questions, offered many reassurances. She was protective, loving, and gentle…in short, a guardian angel.
Little by little, Coral’s beautiful face emerged from behind the heavy curtain of hair. And as the weight fell away, she straightened in her chair. Here’s her "after" pictures. Beautiful, isn’t she?
It’s not too long, but not too short…just right for her, right now. And I have to say, those curls are enviable. J Deborah showed her a few ways to style it, which Coral loved, but finger styling’s probably going to suit her lifestyle best.
As I was settling up the bill, Coral kept smiling at herself in the mirror, turning her head this way and that, in order to see herself from all angles. Her shoulders were relaxed, and she looked squarely into the mirror. Her eyes gleamed, and she was beaming.
Deborah swept an enormous pile of hair into her dustpan. “Begone,” Coral said, with a dismissive wave of her hand, and her happiness was palpable.
“How do you feel?” I asked, even though the answer seemed obvious.
But I hadn’t expected her to say this…
That’s when I turned away, all misty-eyed, swallowing hard around the lump in my throat.
A wise man once suggested that gift-giving blesses the giver and the recipient, both. Amen to that, and here’s my witness.