Sunday, 11 March 2012

A Haircut To Remember

Parenthood provides many challenges and many surprises, not least of which is what your kids will - and will not  - put up with. I am taken aback therefore to find that Sorrel, having noisily refused to go to her dance class on Saturday morning is prepared to come to the barbers with me and to sit quietly whilst I get my hair cut.

I get my hair cut by a Turkish barber not far from the house. I've been going there since we moved to this part of town two and a half years ago. He knows me pretty well by now in the way that two men who spend half an hour saying nothing in each others company on the first Saturday of each month. 

The appearance of a well-known client accompanied by a blond angel child sparks an unusual degree of animation in my barber.

"Hello young lady! Are you having your hair cut today?"

Ever the flirt, Sorrel, shakes her head demurely and hops up on one of the benches with her book to wait.

As my hair is being cut I can see her looking at the pictures in the book she has brought with. Occasionally she glances up to see what I look like and to pass comment. The barber solicitously stops cutting whenever she speaks so I can hear her.

The sight of her sitting there reminds me of the time my father took me for a hair cut when I was about eight. I had long hair and he wasn't paying attention to what was happening. He was a GP in the age when they were paid rather less handsomely and still had to get up to visit well-known hypochondriacs in the middle of the night. Understandably he saw this trip as a rare opportunity to read the paper and smoke a contemplative pipe. Having received instructions to give me "a trim" I watched in horror as the barber gave me a fierce short back and sides. I was shy with grown-ups I didn't know too well and so I said nothing as my blond, curly hair tumbled to the floor. I gazed beseechingly at my Father's reflection but all I could see of him was a broadsheet with legs under a fragrant pall of smoke.

Today, however, I'm having my coarse grey hair cut in a similar fashion but this time through choice. And as it falls down the front of the black hairdressers bib I'm wearing I reflect on how much more grey there is every month. Catching Sorrel smiling at me in the mirror another, more recent memory pops up.

Sorrel has always been a dreadful sleeper and I can count on one hand the number of nights in the last four years that she has not disturbed us. Since she came out of her cot however the disturbance is not so great as she usually stumbles through and sneaks into our bed in the small hours.

So I am a little surprised one night about eighteen months ago to be woken by quiet weeping. I go though to her and find that she's been sick. This is a kid with long curly hair who likes to sleep on her back....

It is a scene of utter horror. Her hair is full of vomit. I lift her out of bed and carry her into the bathroom. Under the strong lights the true state of affairs becomes clear. We had eaten pineapple for tea and the sick is sticky and fibrous. She's thrown up but not immediately woken and has rolled on it so that it is thoroughly matted in.

The only option I can see is to use the shower attachment to rinse it out. By this time she's more awake and is becoming understandably distressed by her predicament. She hates the shower too so the crying becomes louder. I get her our of her pyjamas and start showering her. It's just not effective and now she's screaming.

Helen wakes and comes through. I explain the situation. We don't really have a choice: I have to cut the vomit out of her hair.

I have to take a moment here to describe Sorrel's hair. Lulu, her Mum, her Granny and her Aunt and her Cousin all have identical rich, thick, chocolate brown hair shot through with strands of copper and honey. Sorrel on the other hand has silky-fine blond hair with beautiful relaxed curls at the ends. We've never cut it so it's still technically her baby hair. It's also down to the middle of her back. She has golden eyes, little cubby cheeks and a rosebud of a mouth. She is unspeakably cute. But the hair? The hair is gorgeous.

So Helen sits on the toilet lid in her dressing gown helpfully weeping as I take the scissors and administer a severe bob to the equally tearful child.

When it's done she looks alarmingly different. But at least she's calmer. Helen however is visibly grief-stricken but she's holding it together for the child. I give Sorrel a final wipe down and Helen takes her off to sleep with us in our bed. I start to clear up the mess of hair and sick on the bathroom floor but as I do I hear Helen calling softly from next door. I pop my hear round the door and she says, "Do you think you could find a lock of her hair for me to keep?"

It's a small request but given the attempted rinsing it's hard to tell which strands are tainted and which escaped being chucked up on.

So there I am at three in the morning on all fours in the bathroom, picking up locks of my daughter's baby hair alternately sniffing and retching and then occasionally nodding in approval as I find one that doesn't honk of partially digested pineapple.

The things you do for love....

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