Friday, April 22, 2011

Miami Memories: Bushy Haired Helen

This year I have made every sincere attempt to let my hair grow out, not to find out my true color, whatever that may be, but to create a new look. It was fine during the winter when I kept it at bay on windy days with hats and snow caps. The other day I put on my golf visor and headed out for a game of golf. I nearly had a conniption fit as my hair kept splashing me in the face, I could lick it off my lips, and tiny strands at a time caught my eyes. After the windy game I stepped into the locker room to wash up and quietly gasped at myself in the mirror. My hair stood on end in every direction, my face was a ruddy red from the wind, and at that moment I looked like my mother, Helen.

Now in all due respect, that's a compliment, because my mother was a beautiful natural blond woman. She had a healthy head of thick coarse hair which was frequently difficult to manage. Thank heavens for her they invented hair spray. When I was young I loved to play beauty shop with my mother's hair. Occasionally, I successfully built a nicely stacked bee-hive or later a lovely french twist. I liked her hairdo best when the french twist was made popular by Princess Grace Kelly.

I, too, had thick heavy hair as a youngster but it was not pretty. It was dreadfully hot in the summer and my ponytails never stayed in. One summer day when I was a teen or pre-teen I wanted to go to a Saturday afternoon movie with friends, but mother put her foot down and said, "Not with hair like that! You may stay home and let me fix it, go to the beauty shop and have Olean Simpson cut your hair, or you may stay home. Period!" That Saturday I trudged to Simpson's beauty shop on G. st and had my long heavy brunette hair cut off. I have no memory of what it looked like, but I think I remember it felt good. Of course, I didn't let my mother know I liked it.

Helen Stapp.
This winter I spent many weeks sorting every picture I inherited or had developed for our family. It was quite an ordeal that I honestly enjoyed immensely. It was on one of those days that I spotted mother's picture with wild bushy blond hair. Thanks to Lady Clairol it never grayed. There stood my mother smiling and waving as she stood by the driver's door to our turquoise and white 1959 Ford Fairlain parked in the driveway next to the old gas light. She was probably waving at me to get in the car, but I was busy taking pictures. As I studied the picture (nearly 50 years later) I thought momentarily it was a picture of me, but I never remembered dressing like that! I turned the faded colored picture over and read my mother's hand writing "Bushy Haired Helen!" I laughed and cried and missed my mother.

A few weeks later our book club was discussing "American Thighs" by Jill Conner Browne. I had asked everyone to bring a picture of their childhood, and to bring memories of growing up. I brought several old "Seventeen" magazines from the 1960's. We laughed and shared our stories and then passed around our photos. How was it that some of us looked so much alike? Hairdos, glasses, drab dresses, or was it the black and white effect? No matter, it was good laughter for the soul. When I passed my photos around I actually passed the picture of my mother. Everyone agreed it looked just like me until someone read on the back. I had to confess, "Yes, the bushy hair belongs to my mother, and to me."

Now it feels blessed to say I look like my mother. I haven't cut my hair yet. Instead I bought a handful of clippies that hopefully will hold my thin fly away curly hair back from eyes. This summer will once again be a test of endurance or of "hair" products. No matter what, the next time I see my mother in the mirror, I'll smile back and say, "Thanks Mom, I love you. What do you think of my hairdo?"


  1. What a beautiful tribute to your mom.

  2. I still have my Mother! I am sooo lucky. God bless all Mother's on Easter.

  3. Thanks for sharing. This will be my first Mother's Day without my mom. I think of her often.

  4. Made me miss my mother. I really loved her. She was such a great mom.

  5. That was absolutely wonderful. Your mother was a beautiful woman. I remember your dad teaching me how to properly eat a chicken leg--who knew?