This is a story about my mom Sybil, but if you knew my dad Carl, you know that he weighs heavily in this story. My dad’s live-by rule was, “If you’re not early, you’re late.” He was a stickler. “If you couldn’t be there before something actually started, stay at home and save the gasoline.”
One of Mom’s great likes was her hair. She slept with toilet tissue wrapped around her beau font hairdo to sleep at night. It was fastened securely with an army of hair pine. She would unpin and unwrap the tissue to reuse it again when she went to bed that night. “Waste not want not.”
The paper held her hair vise-like overnight. It would remain just so until she could unwrap it like a Christmas present. She would lift it to its original height and shape with a hair pick before coating it with another layer of hair spray into her tight helmet of beauty.
Now for the rest of the story, if you ever saw, “All in the Family” program you might remember the episode when Jean Stapleton as Edith, got the spray cans she had stored confused and sprayed her hair with Glade instead of with the hairspray. The memorable line was “I reminded myself of the great outdoors all day.”
Mom kept the ironing board behind the door in our large bathroom. She’d pressed the clothes for us and she knew that Dad had already gone out to the car with my sister, my brother, and me. There were no car seats and no seat belts back then.
She was hurrying. She knew that Dad would soon be tooting the horn to let her know that he was ready to go. Had been ready to go, and was going to go soon. In her haste, she grabbed the spray starch can instead of the hairspray and “Ps-s-s-s-s-s-t” she starched Rock of Gibraltar hair helmet. The turban of hair was no match for the spray starch.
Now is where the two worlds collide; Dad’s desire to be early and Mom’s desire to have her hair just-so.
She came outside long enough to tell Dad, “I’m not going to church. Just look at my hair.” Her coiffure had wilted under the onslaught of the chemicals in the starch or the starch had reacted with the lacquer of the hairspray. Her crown of hair had melted. It was flat. There were “dewdrops” of starch hanging from the strands of her once lofty beehive do. She had a wet dog look about her.
Dad knew that if he didn’t want to be later than early, he would have to leave right then and not argue with her. His second commandment for us was, “Thou shalt be in church.” We drove off letting Mom standing in the doorway.
At home she could try and save her hair from the stiffness of the starch and resurrect her do from ruin and like the Phoenix, return it to its glorious stiffness with the hairspray.
When we came home, she had managed to recreate her crowning tresses, although she hadn’t quite achieved its remarkable height and fullness. That would have to wait until her weekly visit with her hair dresser.
(Thanks Ken for reminding me of this story in the on-going saga of our family.)