We prepped and prepped for this haircut. Our preschooler, Blake, hates two sounds above all others, the first is sirens, and the second is dryers- be they hair dryers, hand dryers, or any other dryer, he is not a fan. After days of preparing big brother for his haircut and me for the added stress of baby brother tagging along, I’m ready for tomorrow.
As if in slow motion, I hear the cough, the sneeze. I tuck Blake into bed as all signs tell me that the appointment isn’t going to happen. Knowing family pictures are coming up, I sigh and rummage through bathroom drawers for my old hair-cutting shears.
Blake’s morning symptoms amp up and confirm that, yes, home-styled mom cut it will be. I nestle baby Titus into his baby Bjorn to keep both hands free and prepare the makeshift salon. My trusty scissors greet me like an old friend. These old shears helped me through the first years of Blake’s babyhood and into toddlerhood. No amount of dum dum suckers, slides, or other kid salon tricks would convince a suspicious Blake that haircuts were fun. I stretched the life out of those rare salon haircuts and, when needed, whipped out my scissors for mom cuts, one side at a time, or sometimes just the bangs if he really made it hard.
Sitting behind Blake, Paw Patrol on extra loud to distract, I’m transported back 18 or so years to when I first learned this skill. My dear mom did her best with my five younger brothers hair, but it was uber thick, and she didn’t have time to spare. They dutifully lined up, and she quickly buzzed off the majority of their manes at record pace, then finished their bangs with some kitchen scissors. If they moved, telltale holes in their cuts would reveal it. Or, more likely, if the youngest baby or toddler (or both!) distracted her, the buzzer would make a funny “zzzz” sound, and just like that, you could see where the clippers cut clear down to the scalp. Nothing but their pride was ever hurt, and now, as a mom, I find that fact impressive.
With mom’s quick and busy haircuts feeling somewhat like Russian roulette, I learned to cut my hair around age 13. It was fun and a little scary to do whatever I wanted to my hair. Dying, highlighting, styling, and all else quickly became added to the in house salon consisting of myself and Cindy, my best friend and two years older sister. She often helped me with trimming the back.
It wasn’t long until we totally took over most of the family haircuts. When they reached the teen years, the boys usually asked me for help or I would ask them after a particularly gnarly cut if they wanted me to do the next one. Mom still cut our dad’s hair, though. It was heartwarming to witness, and because he had thick curls, she didn’t use the buzzer, which meant no surprise holes in his crown.
We even started to cut our mom’s hair. I miss these moments, trying to convince her to go trendier, add more layers, or just go shorter overall. Then, her sighing, “Your dad loves my hair long.” Mom kept her hair long because dad liked it best that way through twelve pregnancies and past raising ten children. He would never tell her what to do, but she always took his thoughts into account. The love and consideration my parents have for each other is so beautiful.
What started as a way to save money became a fun skill. While visiting Cindy at college when I was just a high schooler and hanging out with her friends in the dorms, several of her friends needed haircuts. We found a pair of scissors, and I offered to cut the “cool” older guys’ hair for them. Young Cathy felt so mature and confident styling hair for college students.
When I surprised my Lolo (grandpa) one weekend, he bemoaned how unruly his hair was, so I cut it for him as we caught up on life and prepared for a holiday party. We repeated the haircut from time to time, and it created a cool bond between us.
When it was my turn to move away for college, my younger siblings took over the in-home salon. I missed those moments in the chair with my littles. I forget who all participated. (Help me out on names here, sibs!) I remember my brother, Tommy, perfecting trends like the fade, though!
Growing up, frugality was our way of life. Raising ten kids doesn’t leave money for extras. Mom never splurged on herself. We all used money earned for essentials. We began independence with our first jobs. Mine was at age eleven. By high school, we all paid for our own clothes, beauty products, extras, and gas for transportation. “Treat yo’self” was not in our vernacular. My first pedicure was when I was twenty-three years old, and a boss treated us to a day out.
Self-care has never been big on my budget. I’m proud to say that I can paint all ten of my nails without a single smudge and apply liquid eyeliner both while driving in the car; that’s how steady handed I got at doing it myself. Sometimes, I forget that the intense penny-pinching days of my life are over for now. I still put off the cost of simple things like getting new socks or a haircut for Blake or myself, though I am so blessed to be able to afford them now.
When my husband came home disappointed that the stylist didn’t execute his vision, I whipped out the scissors and trimmers and fixed it for him. I kept picturing my own parents and all their years of kitchen haircuts. I loved being able to do that for him.
I am thankful to still have the skill learned over decades of cutting hair for my family. When I pull out my scissors and imaginary stylist cape, I see all the versions of myself over the years. I hear all those heart-to-heart conversations with those I have loved as I cut and style their hair. Days like today, I’m thankful for this gift. I hope Blake remembers these homestyle cuts with his mama fondly, too.