Friday, December 19, 2008

A time to seek, and a time to lose

I chopped off my hair just before we left Buffalo, home of hot and spicy chicken wings and Friday fish fries. It was time to look forward to a new life in Seattle.

The week of departure, I told my stylist to cut off my floppy, fake curls, right down to an inch all around.

"Have you talked to your
husband?" the stylist asked. (They always ask this, it must be part of the training.)

"Look," I said, "Dave'll thank me. Until he passes the bar and gets hired at a law firm, hair cuts are a luxury we just can't afford. I mean it, cut it off."

The term "hair permanent" is a lie. Perms flop and frizz and fade, forcing continual expense and maintenance. Afterwards, I felt released: from misbehaved ends, and, to be frank, from Buffalo, as well.

I'd arrived three years earlier with a BA in Psychology and, the 1980's being what they were, could only find a job as a waitress at ChiChi's Mexican Restaurant. Early on, I succumbed to a hair permanent, perhaps because it went so well with the waitressing uniform: frilly white blouse, too-short flamenco skirt.

My friends--and drinking buddies--from ChiChi's included a disenfranchised teacher, a graphic artist, and a University of Buffalo student on the nine-year undergrad plan. We spent many nights at a tavern called the Keg bemoaning such things as Reagonomics and our directionless lives. We called ourselves the 27-club, since we all dwelled in that twenty-something limbo.

The town of Buffalo, too, seemed to be in limbo. The steel plants had closed. The economy was drifting. Even the football team, the Buffalo Bills, were floundering. Bills fans were so embarrassed by their team, they wore paper bags on their heads when they attended games.

There were things I enjoyed, too, about Buffalo. Its proxmity to Toronto, and to thunderous Niagara Falls. I used to love bicycling through downtown along the Niagara River. And Delaware Park. And the Teddy Roosevelt teddy bear museum. And the laid back, unpretentious people.

But my husband's stint in law school was only meant to last three years. After two of those years, I served up my last chimichanga and became a secretary at Healy-Schutte Advertising Agency. It may have paid less than the waitressing, but at least I was serving up words.

Now, though, it was time to move on. The ad agency team I worked for generously threw me a going away party. Amid champagne toasts, and joking and laughter, the account executives awarded me with a yellow rain hat (because it always rains in Seattle) and pink lingerie (Irene's boyfriend was a lingerie salesman). I made a speech of thanks, and rubbed it in about my escape to Pacific Coast seafood, mountainous wilderness, the Northwest's thriving economy.

So I'd said my good-byes, my curls were shorn from my head, but still, Buffalo had one more experience in store. In the midst of packing up our Colvin Avenue apartment and nightly farewell toasts at the Keg, I contracted an excruciating pain in my butt. I could barely walk, let alone sit, and it got more painful by the hour. I made a last-minute visit to a doctor, who diagnosed it as a thrombosed hemorrhoid. Perhaps brought on by a bad diet, he suggested, or an over-indulgence in alcohol. (Do ya think?) I wasn't about to argue--I just wanted it gone. The earliest he could surgically remove it was the morning Dave and I planned to leave Buffalo forever.

So bright and early on moving day, Dave and I headed west for Seattle, only to veer off the road as soon as we'd gotten on for my last-minute surgery. It didn't take long. The shocker was the post-operative care instructions: I'd have to recline or stand, not sit, for the next six hours.

Hence, I headed west toward Seattle, kneeling on the passenger seat, facing backward at Buffalo's rusting skyline. With the pain in my butt gone, as the city receded, I felt a sharp stab of sadness.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hair Happily Ever After

It's not just me, I swear. Stop and think for a minute about how many classic stories include hair, even celebrate hair, movies like: "Barbershop," "Steel Magnolias," "Legally Blonde," musicals like "Grease," "Hairspray," and, wait for it ... "Hair."

I've spilled many--but not all--of my hair calamities in these blogs, my quirky tastes, comedies and crises, but I've made scant mention of hair happiness. Hair romance. Hair love. I may have avoided it, like one avoids the sentimental and trite (or the plague), so as not to lapse into sycophantic idiocy.

Love, as it is portrayed in many stories, can certainly be idiotic. Even more to the point, although we're constantly told: "They lived happily ever after," marriage is never the end. Twenty-eight years ago now, I fell in love. Dave and I got married in such a hurry our friends all suspected I was pregnant. (Classic gaff, by an acquaintance around five months after Dave and I walked down the aisle: "You're still not showing!")

Nope, I was in love. At age 22, I didn't have much to show for myself besides a BA in Psychology and the longest hair I'd ever had in my life. I was too young to demand the big wedding, and too naive to be realistic. I insisted our wedding be outdoors, the aisle a pine needle carpet, no roof over our heads, so when we sealed the deal with a kiss, I could gaze up, not at a ceiling, but at branches and blue sky.

We looked ahead to a time when he wouldn't be selling upholstery fabric and I wouldn't be waitressing. He longed to be an artist, to paint large, colorful, glorious masterpieces. I longed to be a writer, to write large, colorful, glorious epics. At our wedding, Dave wore pink glasses, a pink sportcoat, burgundy suspenders and a thin burgundy tie. I wore my mother's dress, and pink roses woven through my hair.

I remember my life-long friends Lissa and Laura helped me dress, how they artistically arranged the rosebuds and baby's breath in my one long braid, our nervous laughter, the artistic challenge of pulling off something none of us had ever attempted before. My girlfriends fastened the zillion little buttons up the back of my dress, and the tiny buckles on my white, high-heeled sandals (a disastrous fashion choice in the deep wet grasses and woodsy setting).

My wedding day was a hopeful but tense moment, a time of promise, aching love, and a coiled vortex of uncertainty. Dave and I, my parents, my friends, all made it up as we went along. The only script was one we'd written ourselves. And as I stepped forward along the forest aisle, I wore no veil.

When the moon is in the Seventh House
and Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
and love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius

(from Hair, the musical)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hair alarm

Aunt Elizabeth keeps me on my toes.

"Your closet! Your closet!" She wails at the sight of me, her plea for me to pay closer attention to what I wear.

Under her severe gaze, I'm a child again, whining that I have neither the time nor the inclination.

My aunt is, as always, unflinching. "Your hair, too. People expect that, you know."

I do know. It's a mistake to let yourself go; no matter how many pressing intellectual, lofty pursuits are stacking up in your inbox, if you don't at least try to look good, what's the point?

When I let myself go, it isn't pretty. The first thing to fall apart is my hair. When I gave birth to my first child, I started out thinking I could be a mom and look good.

Here I am six months later. You're so right, the only one looking good here is little hairless one. I keep these pictures around to stay grounded, because it's all too easy for me to drift from the physical to the immaterial.

And I can hear the hair alarm now. It sounds strangely like Aunt Elizabeth.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tearing my hair out

I've just returned to the car from the bookstore, from a reading by an old friend (and I mean old!). It was a nice event as signings go, the old man sitting up there, crotchety but proud, the audience populated with gray-haired friends from his retirement home. I shopped for a while afterward, only to be surprised when I left to find the old author and his friends still waiting, leaning shakily on their walkers and canes at the curb in the damp September air. They had to have been standing out there for over half an hour. Now, as I sit in my car ready to drive over to meet my son for lunch, I remember I never double-checked the time of my hair appointment--is it 1:30 or 2:30?

I pick up my cell to call the salon, and as I'm dialing, it rings. It's my son, wanting to postpone our lunch until one. I promise to get back to him as soon as I confirm the time of my hair appointment. As we hang up, the car feels claustrophobic, overly warm with the car windows all shut tight, so I hunt for the key to open the sunroof. It has to be here somewhere, since I just opened the car with it a second ago. I rummage through my purse and pockets and under my butt and the books I've just purchased that I set on the seat next to me and in the cracks between the seats and on the floor under the seats. No keys. In exasperation, I get out of the car.

As I suck in the fresh air and recheck my pockets, I see a van from my author friend's retirement home drive by in the wrong direction, empty of passengers, the driver on the phone. I race after it down the parking lot, flailing my arms to get the driver's attention. The van turns right and out of reach, circling around I hope. Discouraged and out of breath, I trudge back, digging around in my coat pocket once more, discovering my car key was there all along.

I feel a stab of pain in my heel as I climb back in the car, which reminds me I've just learned I have plantar fasciitis, for which I'm supposed to fill a prescription, but I'm not sure which Costco pharmacy the doctor's office sent it to--another call I have to make. My heel throbs dully. I turn the key in the ignition, open the sunroof and windows, and the chill September air pours around me.

Before I can relocate my cellphone it rings, vibrating and dancing in the tray under the emergency brake. I answer: it's my son, wondering if we're on for one o'clock or not. I tell him I still have to call the hair salon. The retirement home van crosses in front of my vision, full of gray-haired passengers. We hang up. Now my cellphone battery is dangerously low. At this point, why bother with the hair cut at all? Maybe instead, I should just tear my hair out.

It starts to rain hard, raindrops pelting my head through the sunroof ...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Hair Unconscious

I've learned a thing or two since I began the Whidbey Island MFA Program, about how the unconscious mind might not arise from below, as is often depicted in diagrams, but actually flows down from above, about how time isn't necessarily linear but cyclical, spiraling back on itself again and again like the tales of 1001 Arabian Nights.

Oddly enough, the concept of cyclical time rings true for me when it comes to--you guessed it--my hair. Over the years, changes in my lifestyle have often meant changes in my hair style. Is it just coincidence? A most recent example would be my return to school to get a graduate degree. This August, as the day neared for my first residency on Whidbey Island, an inexplicable urge came over me to cut my hair.

From a practical viewpoint, it made no sense. I'd just paid for a photographer to take a dozen professional photos of me sporting my mid-length bob. I'd also been growing my hair out for several years to be able to tie it back when I go for a jog. Not to mention my hang-up with hairpisodes. Nonetheless, my hair just didn't "feel right" anymore.

So, before I knew it, I was flipping through old photos of me that I've scanned while writing these blogs. The style you see here is the one I chose. At first, I didn't put two and two together, that I'd picked out a photo taken around the time I'd graduated from college and yearned to go on to graduate school. It just felt right to me. Photo in hand, I trotted off to the salon, my heart full of mixed emotions, uncertain yet determined.

Setting aside for the moment whether or not the stylist managed to recreate the "old me," it seems once again, my retro hair is more than coincidence, the gears meshing in the cosmos, time leaping back on itself even as it moves forward, an outward sign of inspiration mysteriously flowing down from the realm of the unconscious.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hair Peace

It is the spring of 1970 in this picture. I was twelve years old. Technically still a child, I sported short pigtails and a clean-cut look. My nose often lost in a book, I didn't pay much attention to what was going on around me, but the atmosphere in the U.S. then was charged. Neil Young would write a song about that time, a song with the refrain: Four dead in Ohio, and James Michener would write a book called Kent State.

My family had a front row seat for that terrifying sequence of events. My dad taught architecture at Kent State University, on the fourth floor of Taylor Hall, where picture windows provide a bird's-eye view of the KSU campus, including the lawn where thirteen students were shot--four dead--on May 4, 1970.

That Monday night of the shootings, at the dinner table, my dad had tears in his eyes. He was visibly trembling. We children, my two brothers and I, recoiled when he got this upset; his voice was so strident, his jaw jutting forward, the cords on his neck thick.

"It's horrific! Unconscionable! In my opinion, Governor Rhodes should be put on trial for murder. The State shouldn't have been involved in the first place! What was White thinking? It was a University matter, not a State one! And do you know what Rhodes called the students?"

It was a rhetorical question. Mom knew what Rhodes had said. We all knew. It had been repeated over and over on the news all evening, coverage of the shootings, black-and-white images of milling crowds of kids. National Guardsmen. Thin-haired men wearing suits and tortoiseshell glasses. Burning buildings. Tear gas. People screaming, running, weeping. Fallen bodies. Mom commiserated in glum silence. We kids stared at our dinner plates.

"Brown shirts! Vigilantes! That's what he called them. They were nothing of the sort. They were just unarmed students and innocent bystanders. How could they do such a thing? They shot indiscriminately into the crowd! One of my architecture students, John Cleary, was hit in the chest. They still don't know if he'll live, and if he does, if he'll ever recover. He wasn't demonstrating--he was on his way to class. The cars in the faculty lot were riddled with bulletholes!"

Dad swept his arm over our barely touched food like a gun looking for a target. Until that moment, Dad had always talked shop--about the Dean of Architecture, course schedules and faculty projects. I had pictured him as "the establishment," as we kids often referred to adults back then, the bread-earner, the upholder of authority. I'd known, in an abstract way, that he objected to the Vietnam War. But that night, perhaps because of the intensity of emotion, the helplessness in his eyes, I came to see that ignorance and thoughtlessness, especially of those in power, was potentially fatal, and that, even though my dad was a war veteran, he firmly believed in peace.

After the senseless violence of Kent State slammed so unexpectedly into our peaceful home, I too became convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that war and killing has no place in this world. Over the next couple of years, during my internal transformation from a naive child to an outspoken teen, I also underwent an external one. By the time I was fourteen, I had hippie hair and wire-rimmed granny glasses--the fashion statement of peace lovers.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Red Conversation

"I used to have red hair, you know."

"Really? Red?! How red? Like that fake, dark red, or a more realistic I'm-a-real-redhead kind?"

"Oh, it didn't look too real. After I'd colored it, my eyebrows still betrayed me. They stayed brown, you see."

"Do people really notice that?"

"I didn't care, really, I thought red was a good look. Eventually, though, it was a luxury I had to give it up. It was just too expensive. The stylist actually dyed my hair brown in the end so I could grow out my hair without the dark roots."

"Well, I admire that. I've never done anything different with my hair. Do you feel like a different person if your hair is red?"

"It really didn't make me feel one way or the other--I can't even see my hair, can I? It's how people treat you, that's what makes the difference. For the most part, people reacted well, but I did get sick of the doubletakes. I think people were trying to decide if it was real."

Monday, May 19, 2008

PC Hair, Part II

I've gone to Studio 904 for so long that I pretty much know my way around, right down to where not to park in the parking lot, as in, NOT in the space nearest the door to the salon: after one visit, I came back out to a car windshield shellacked in bird doo from a gull's nest on the street lamp directly overhead.

Plus, it's on the Island, so I don't have to emit a lot of carbons to get there. But familiarity and proximity aren't my only reasons. My main reason is that, as hair places go, Studio 904 is politically correct.

I learned about politically correct hair salons on my first visit several years ago, as Marie softly snipped at my hair. She opened with the typical marketing question--"So this is your first time here? Why did you choose us?"

"My stylist got pregnant, so she's taking time off," I replied. "Which is for the best, anyhow, since I felt guilty getting a foil from her--you know, the fumes might hurt the baby … ."

"Oh, you're worried about that? Then maybe you'll like our hair care products. They're safe for the environment, no animal testing!"

The alarm sounded in my head. I knew I had to think fast if I was going to deflect a product pitch. The bronze plaque on the wall next to the mirror gave me an out.

"So, umm, why, exactly, did Studio 904 get a Better Business Bureau award?"

It worked--all I had to do from then on was sit back and listen. According to Marie, Studio 904 had forward-thinking business practices, paying stylists a steady salary rather than forcing them to rely on commissions. The beauty parlor business can be dependent on the holidays, wedding season, graduations; getting paid on commission makes for lean months during the lulls. Plus, the salon pays health and pension benefits to its workers, gives free hair cuts to low income kids, and has a good track record hiring and training minorities. Not only that, instead of tossing out hair, they send it to Matter of Trust to make hair mats to clean up oil spills.

They even had a no tipping policy--a principle reinforced by a placard at the checkout counter. It was too good to be true. Conscience-free haircuts, without the obsequious tip at the end? What a concept. I've gone back ever since, taken family members, told friends.

Most recently, I took my 86-year-old Aunt Elizabeth for a style, gloating to her on the drive over about the no-tipping policy. Ever skeptical, my aunt just had to check my facts.

"I hear there's no tipping," she blurted.

"No tipping?" The clerk looked confused. "Oh! Well, we abandoned that policy a year ago!"

Sighing, I reached for my wallet.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Bristle-topped males

When we were little, Dad cut my brothers' hair. It wasn't Mom's job, God forbid! Mom couldn't even color between the lines, let alone wield sharp scissors around tender ears. No, Dad was the architect, the steady hand with design instincts, and thus, the only parent eligible for the job.

On haircut nights, Dad would sit my brothers down one by one on a stool under direct light, their hair shiny with highlights, their uncertain faces in shadow. As he set to work, his tongue ran studiously over his lips (like it always did) while we kids held our breath, hoping for the best.

The first cuts I remember were the bowl-over-the-head variety, but by the time I was ten we'd reached the buzz-cut era, when boys and grown men alike sheared their heads, seemingly eager to leap over the draft board fence to the Vietnam battlefield. Bristle-topped males were everywhere--from the Boy Scouts to the high school principal to the Presbyterian church minister.

Ever slaves to fashion, our family joined the ranks. In order to properly buzz cut my brothers, Dad bought an electric clipper, which apparently tickled, judging by all the wiggling and squirming my brothers did. When it was all over, there were gasps of dismay as they beheld themselves in the mirror. Quite plainly, the style was all wrong--it made their car-door ears stick out even more and exposed the soft, pale vulnerability of their fuzz-covered scalps.

Dad didn't venture to cut my hair, though. I got the drift: men and hair were straightforward enough, but women and hair were an entirely more complicated prospect. Indeed, it took an expensive trip to a sophisticated salon to give birth to the pixie cut you see here.

Years later as I behold this picture, it reeks to me of gender confusion. I mean, was I a boy or a girl? I'm wearing a prim dress, ankle socks, patent leather shoes, baby blue cat's-eye glasses, topped by a blatantly masculine haircut.

It was around this time, in 1967, when our fifth grade gym teacher made the whole class race around the playground five times to determine who was the fastest. I was a great runner back then. I ran everywhere I went, and I'd been doing it since I was born. And I won that race!!! I beat every last kid in the fifth grade. At which point, the gym teacher pulled me aside and said: "You should have let the boys win. Girls aren't supposed to be the fastest."

If I'd been offered the choice--Would you like to be a little boy or a little girl?--I think I might have picked little boy. Little boys got to be on baseball teams, little boys got cool presents instead of awkward-fitting clothes and blank-faced dolls, little boys were allowed to run as fast as they wanted.

But then again, it was a big relief not to be male. If I'd been slightly older and more cynical, I definitely wouldn't have given a damn. If I'd been a boy, the next stop would be Vietnam. And even at ten, I knew for certain I didn't want to go there.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Bang Bang

My daughter had almost no hair when she was born. Of course, the ducky softness of her baby hair was wonderful, but I couldn’t help but worry when she reached one year of age and still had almost none.

Naturally, my worries were for nothing--soon enough she had a delightful head of blondish hair. Still, once it was finally long enough for a cut at a salon, I hovered nervously nearby while the options were discussed, interjecting comments, translations of what I thought my daughter was saying to the stylist, of what the stylist was saying to my daughter. I have no idea if this is normal; it’s just what I did.

Now that she’s fifteen, though, I know better than to meddle. I don’t remember that my daughter specifically instructed me to butt out, but clearly, my interference is unwelcome. To appear as detached as possible, I smile bracingly as she goes off with the stylist and then sit down in the waiting area to leaf through a book or magazine.

I don’t think my daughter realizes I can still see everything that’s going on. I purposely position myself so I can peek through the shampoo and conditioner display, to participate, however voyeuristically, in what’s happening to her. Call it an obsession, or overprotective, or rubbernecking, but I can’t seem to help myself.

There are things I want to call out from behind the hair care products, things like: “Are you sure you want it that short, honey?” and “Isn’t that cut going to be a little high maintenance?” Not only would that give me away, though, it would also serve to truncate her growing independence. We all have our own life experiences, and our own hairpisodes, to endure.

Case in point: Walking to the car after a recent cut, my daughter and I had the following conversation:

Me: "You went for the bangs!"

She: (tossing bangs, rolling eyes) "I should have called them side bangs."

Me: "What?!"

She: "This isn't what I wanted. They're too short! I wanted them on the sides of my face."

Me: "Oh!"

I think to myself that it’s probably because she's not used to them yet. But I'm not used to them either. They're reminiscent of Hilary Duff--long and tickling the tops of her eyelids, annoying to look at and probably to put up with, but I keep these thoughts to myself. It's too late now, anyhow.

Much later that same evening, I pause to visit my daughter at her laptop, to have another look at the new bangs, hoping I'll be used to them now. But something's wrong. She’s wearing sunglasses--the large, tortoise-shell kind, her new bangs draped over them in an exaggerated fashion--and it's ten o'clock at night.

Me: "You're wearing sunglasses!"

She (standing up abruptly and yelling): "I hate bangs!"

All at once, I get it: The sunglasses are keeping the bangs out of her eyes. She glares at me through the brown, tinted glasses, marches to her bedroom, turns, shouts: "I hate bangs!" once more, and slams the door. Bang!

Fondly, I gaze at her firmly shut door, so proud I could almost pop. Welcome to womanhood, honey. You've had your first, hairpisode!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Hair digs, or Hairpisode #15

I was talking to an almost-bald guy the other day. He's young, which makes his hair loss all the more noticeable. We'd only just met, and I was trying to be friendly. It made no difference to me that he had thinning hair. When I meet people, appearance isn't foremost in my mind. Instead, I focus on what they have to say, on how they respond to teasing remarks, to whether or not they laugh at my jokes. I wasn't even thinking about Steve's balding head. Honest!

"Hi Steve!" I greet him as he enters the room. I'm standing by the coat rack, packing up to head out for some fresh air during our lunch break. "What brings you here? I certainly hope it's not to spend a Saturday afternoon with us--this morning was bad enough. And it's sure not a very exciting day off, if you ask me."

"No, I'm just waiting for my wife so we can go out to lunch. My Saturdays aren't much, though. I usually have to go into the office. I was there all morning."

"Too bad. I hate working Saturdays. But with the move and all, here we are, a whole day's worth of talk. We don't seem to have a choice. If we don't do this, it'll be utter chaos."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. But I'm starting to get excited about the move. I just checked out the new property on the way over here, and it's great!"

"Pretty cool, huh? With the added feature of being right next to the costume store!"

Steve laughs at my joke, bless him. "Sure, how convenient!"

"Yeah," I guffaw brazenly. "So easy to just stop in, pick up a wig."

There's a short silence while I look toward the exit.I can't put my finger on it, but I suddenly feel awkward. "Well, nice talking to you, but I'm outta here," I say, pushing past on my way out.

I know something is up, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Then it hits me: I said wig. I could have said monster costume, or bloodshot eyeballs, or severed hand, but no, I'd gone and said wig. All at once, I picture Steve wearing a bright purple wig, or a Captain Hook wig, or one of those black wigs with the skunk stripe down the middle. Is that what he thinks I meant? I'm mortified. I've been a total cad.

I wonder if hairpisodes are contagious.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Hair locks

The family Bibles are old; their leather bindings disintegrate in our hands as we pull them from the shelves. We fan the gold-gilded pages; instantly, the room fills with the smell of dank basements and ancient lives. My brother Craig and I must make decisions about these family treasures, but first, we hope, we will uncover a bit of our history.

In the pages of three different Bibles, we discover dried violets, ferns and pansies, a marriage certificate, a family tree, obituaries, and a business card for a funeral home. It would be nice, we fantasize, to find money, some old savings tucked away and forgotten. But we also know enough about our family's past to realize that these weighty, elaborate tomes were purchased over a century ago during a time of optimism and richesse. In the ensuing years, our families endured wars and poverty, years when, of necessity, any secret cache would have been spent.

For one of the Bibles, there are no marks at all, no names written inside, no family tree, no records of births or deaths. The edition is particularly fine and in excellent condition for its age. We aren't even sure which side of the family it's from--Mom's? Dad's? Doggedly, I search for evidence, and I gasp when I find it--it almost looks alive--a lock of hair. Not a soft, wispy, infant lock, but a substantial, mouse-brown tress from some young, vital head. Separated from its owner at a formative age, the hair has remained brown, thick and lustrous. It is curled up in Psalms like a smug, sleeping cat.

To whom does this human remnant belong, and why was it saved? Whoever it was, he or she has long since ceased to exist, and is therefore no longer able to clue us in. I'm curious enough, though, to do a bit of research, and I uncover the traditions of other cultures at first: Jewish, Native American, Hindu, Chinese. Mine is a Protestant, Anglo family, and unfortunately, whatever tress-saving traditions may have existed earlier have not continued. According to a recent article in the Seattle P-I, in the 19th century people used to keep scrapbooks of hair. And according to First Haircut in Wikipedia, in Victorian times, boys had long hair just like girls. A boy's hair wasn't cut short until he was becoming a young man. A lock of his first haircut was saved as a testament to his rite of passage from boyhood to manhood.

Satisfied I have found the clue I'm looking for, I make a speculative leap, deciding the Bible where the lock of hair was found probably belonged to my Uncle Lew Witte, the boy pictured here. I have just a shred of evidence: This photo is the only one in our ancestral family albums where a young boy followed Victorian tradition and kept his hair long. Of course, I'm aware it's wishful thinking to assume I've found both the reason for the lock of hair, and the original owner.

Still, in a broader sense, the mysterious lock has given me a cause for celebration. After all, it would seem, for at least several generations, our family has been finding meaning via the hair on our heads.