This evening I cut Avery's hair. She's been asking for "short like Bethie" for quite some time. Don't worry -- I wasn't about to part with that much silky-wispy baby hair. But she was still very pleased to see how dramatic the change was after parting with just a few inches.
She sat on the old wooden high chair in the kitchen, her baby towel from Noni wrapped around her shoulders. This was her first real cut. She's had wee, hesitant trims before. In the past I just couldn't bring myself to hack off any more than an inch. But somehow, tonight, it seemed right.
I combed through the damp tangles, parted and sectioned off the brown strands, glanced at Jamie for moral support, then dove in. With each cut, memories were evoked. My first thought was one of thankfulness. Several years ago I endured a hair fiasco with a four-year-old Bethie in which she gave herself a hair cut. Just some nice, obvious chops here and there -- bangs, top, back. Boy, was she a sight. (I'm really rather surprised that Avery never attempted this rash display of independence. But she seems content with chopping the hair from her stuffed animals. Not that I condone this.) So tonight I was thankful that I was cutting hair not because it needed repair, but because the time was right.
I thought about the soft little curls at the ends of her hair that probably won't appear again. Her baby curls. The curls that have been with us for five years. And I thought about how grown up it was to have a hair cut and be in kindergarten and have a new backpack and start ballet all in the same week.
After every snip she asked, "Is it done?" And after every snip I said, "Not yet. I'll tell you when it's done." Yet she still asked -- after every snip -- "Is it done?"
Finally, it was done. I looked at that blunt cut across her back, and it made her look so confident, so assured, so . . . . big.
She ran to the mirror and announced, "Whoa. It's short." I was nervous. It was still well past her shoulders. Surely it wasn't too short. "Do you like it, honey?" She smiled and twirled the strands, "Yes!" And ran to show her brothers and sister. They all seemed to experience some sort of brief mourning over the loss of her baby hair, but with a quick wink from mom they caught the prompt. "It looks so pretty, Avery!" She glowed.
Then she asked for curls. So I swept the mane into a ponytail while a mama-ache lodged somewhere in my chest. That ponytail was a big girl ponytail. We got out the sponge rollers, she found the green ones, and we rolled. After securing the bun with a hankie, I whisked my baby to bed. A story and prayer later, I tucked another hankie into her hand for the sniffles that had plagued her all day. And my baby-but-not-a-baby drifted off.
I know that when she wakes up in the morning, she'll suddenly remember. She'll feel the rollers and it will all come back to her. She had her hair cut. She'll want the rollers out, she'll run to the mirror, and she'll smile. And my big girl -- she'll be beautiful.