It was not my intent; I hadn’t planned it. If I had known, I would never have done it.
A few months ago, I cut the baby right out of my child. With one fell swoop of the electric razor across his scalp, layer by layer, my baby landed in light downy tufts around wee pink feet. Blond curls and tats falling one atop the other in soft piles. Piles of my baby!
This may sound dramatic, but anyone who has ever done this will surely understand. It was all done in the name of efficiency. My four-year-old son’s hair seemed out of control. It was long and unruly and I struggled daily to keep his bangs out of his eyes. I tried and tried to comb the rooster tail out of the back of his head – something I was never able to do without a fight and a few tears. Surely by giving him a nice, neat trim, I was making a bad situation better.
On a whim one evening, I stood him up in the empty tub and with my husband’s electric razor, I buzzed the long locks off.
Initially, I was quite proud. Despite being shorter than intended, with different attachments to the razor I was able to style his new hair into a little buzz-cut. We all gathered in the bathroom and marveled at what we saw, as if looking at him for the first time. And in fact, we were.
With the loss of that hair there emerged a new child; an older child. A child that seemed wiser, more capable and more defiant. As if on cue, the clothes in his drawer no longer seemed to fit. His pant legs were not long enough, his winter boots were now too tight, sleeves too short….
His blondness was gone as well; his hair taking on a more brownish tone. I had identified him as blond for so long, and now it was gone.
In some cultures, the hair is considered to have a soul of its own, and when the hair is cut there is a ceremony performed. A burial. It’s a funeral and they are burying an important part of themselves. Mourning and cutting are closely related in many cultures. I was struck by this memory a few days ago when I became aware of the transformation in my son. By cutting away his long hair, I managed to (unceremoniously) bury a part of him. And I was mourning the loss of my baby!
Fortunately, I have a piece of his hair that I kept. A small lock of sunshine curled into a cloth. This burial will be a different one. It will be buried away in my cabinet and every now and again I will come upon it. That piece of his early blondness will flood me with memories of the baby in him.
I will show it to him when he is older and we will wonder at it together. “You used to be blond,” I will say.
Then, I will bury it away again until I need a little sunshine.