When I think back, my mom is always in the kitchen – mixing bowls and spoons, flour sprinkling the front of one of my dad’s sweatshirts, sleeves rolled and something going in or coming out of the oven. And always in this image, her hair is done up in pink, sponge curlers (the ones with plastic arms to snap them on) and covered with a white cloth diaper (a clean diaper), wrapped and tied like a bandana.
Each weekday around 4:30pm, she’d lock herself in the bathroom and when she reappeared her thick, black hair looked beautiful, a bit of red on her lips. She might overlook the flour on the sweatshirt, but she was ready for my dad to get home from work.
Mom still has a healthy head of hair and still maintains enough vanity to want to look her best. The curlers and the diaper disappeared years ago and the ongoing use of prednisone (for her lungs) caused her hair to be unable to hold a perm. She hated her flat hair look and a few months ago asked me to buy her some curlers.
For those of you who know me, I am not a foofy-hair person. I like to wash it and shake it out like a dog…and be done. I wasn’t even sure you could still buy curlers, what with curling irons. I went to CVS and asked where I’d find the pink sponge ones. Not! I wound up with plastic rollers and a package of bobby pins, knowing Mom would probably not use them.
“What the hell are these?” she asked.
She held one up to her eye and looked through it like a telescope. I placed my eye at the other end and for a long moment we considered each other through this lens. So much of me wanted to cry, but instead…we both cracked up.