Mother’s Day Letters: Barbara, Maya, and Talia

My Dearest Talia,

You are so fortunate that your amazing luxurious curls are something to be admired and sought after, and not regarded as a challenge to be tamed and forced into a supposedly trendy ‘do.

As a child, I was the only Jewish kid in a middle class neighborhood, where I was also the only one with curly hair. As such, I was regarded as an alien. Back then, nobody knew what to do with curls, especially in the Middle West.

In 1943, when I was eleven, the movie “For Whom the Bell Tolls” came out. Ingrid Bergman’s character sported one inch curls and she looked adorable. (No doubt she had a perm.) I was very taken with the look and wanted the same cut — which Mr. Dory, my mother’s hair cutter, gave me. It was perfect for me. However, it was a one-time deal, probably because it required very frequent cuts.

Later on, I became Mrs. Doctor’s Wife, and had to look more befitting of my position on the social totem pole. I was expected to go to the beauty shop weekly. I went through the whole megillah – a wash and set on rollers, sitting under the dryer, and the comb-out which transformed my hair into a bouffant puffy ‘do. Toxic clouds of hair spray made the entire edifice stiff as a board.

Then in 1968 I had a disaster, something went wrong when a hair dresser straightened my hair. Her broke off all the hair on the top of my head, and he felt so bad that he bought me a postiche of curls that attached to the hair that remained on the sides.

That was the last time I had my hair colored and straightened.

Later I met, hairdresser, Tom, who encouraged me to cut my hair short — and at that point I was liberated!

Now, my curls aren’t as exuberant as they used to be. They’re grey, and not as thick and luxuriant as they once were, but I still get compliments and that makes me happy. I’m grateful they are still there, because in a sense, they define who I am.

It’s been a lifetime of struggle, a constant ebb and flow of finding the right people to help me with my curls. When I was growing up, nobody had ever heard of a beauty shop exclusively for people with curly hair. Lucky you! I am glad that you haven’t had as long of a struggle. I’m thankful that my hair ties me to you, to your mother, and to my other children. I’m proud of our lineage.

With All My Love,

Nana B