My Big Girl has (had) long gorgeous red hair. She got it, genetically, from me. And I’ll fully own that I’m quite vain about the shredded wheat-like reddish mop on my own head. Vain enough that even though my tresses have grown darker and (yes I’ll say it) grayer over the years, I still cover the old lady mess with color that is close as possible to my daughter’s youthful auburn.
Growing up redhead was tough in west Texas, where the standard of beauty was a blond, tan, cheerleader-y white girl. I know my experience was nowhere near that of an ethnic minority but even my subtle status as an outsider influenced me enough to hate my unusual looks until I hit puberty. Then I decided to become New Wave and made peace with the whole thing.
My childhood insecurities influenced me to always tell my little redhead Big Girl that her hair is different and unique. That she’s part of a special group that is actually going extinct. (Seriously. Read about it here.)
And I guess the message sunk in. But in a way that certainly surprised me.
Over the summer Big Girl read a short story in one of her American Girl books about a child with an illness who received a beautiful wig fashioned from donated hair. And a seed was planted.
We had been planning a trim. And once she got in the chair, Big Girl spontaneously decided to chop the whole thing off and donate her hair to one of those wig-making charities. Big Girl said she wanted to help a child who had lost her hair due to illness. And that she wanted a little girl with red hair to have a wig that matched her natural color.
I’ll pause here while you choke up a little. Cause I sure did.
I totally teared up in the middle of the salon while sitting under the dryer getting my own vanity polished. Not because my baby cut her pretty hair but because I was blown away by the poise and thoughtfulness she showed. This from the kid who still plays Barbies with her little sister and who threw a temper tantrum over the choice of TV show she was allowed to watch just hours before the hair appointment.
The super short cut made her look instantly older. And her sweet choice made me see her as wiser, more mature. In the hours following the big cut I held my breath and waited to see if she was still herself or if this crazy new ‘do and lovely decision had suddenly transformed her into a new person.
Who was this child with the short hair and selflessness?
And later that night she hit her sister and sassed back to me, and I actually exhaled in relief. She’s still herself, sweet haircut and all. As nice (or scary) to imagine, growing up doesn’t arrive with the mere snip of the scissors.