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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


Dear Mom,

There was a little girl,

who had a little curl,

right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

she was very very good,

and when she was bad she was horrid.

Yep, that was me, the little girl with the curls. A wild untamed head of hair. I remember you reciting that poem and thinking it was about me. You would tell me about your own curls as a child and how your father constantly handed you a comb, telling you to go make yourself more presentable.

My curls didn’t really bother me until that haircut in seventh grade (we won’t mention by whom). The diagonal band of bangs across my forehead, captured in my school picture, led to the first of my battles with my curls.

I learned how to wrap my hair, iron my hair, blow dry my hair, and had many a sleepless night on orange juice can curlers. These tedious exercises worked and my hair was soft and silky–unless it rained or the fog rolled in – which was practically daily in Oakland Hills.

When I was 18 on a year abroad, I had a romantic interlude post-shower (I’m old enough to confess that) and didn’t have a chance to tend to my hair as it dried. I clearly remember my boyfriend commenting on how good it looked.

Hmmmm, maybe I should let it go natural.

The mystery was that it only looked good for ¼ of the day. I tried haircut after haircut, product after product, but couldn’t figure it out.

Years later, I read an article in the New York Times about a new curly girl salon which posed the question, “Do you cry after every haircut?” Well, yes, I do.

I headed down to Devachan Salon for an appointment with the curl guru, Carlos, and told him that I had lost my curl after bearing 3 children. After washing it he announced, “Girl, your curl is going to bounce right back!” And it did! Since that day I have learned to care for my curls and haven’t straightened my hair once. I can go out in the rain, can be active, and the bounce is there, no frizz.

I remember the day you went natural – your hair falling out post-chemical treatment. After wearing the headpiece until it grew back, you let the salt and pepper curls form a crown around your head. They’ve progressed to a glimmering silver. Along with your natural hair came a more relaxed outlook on the world.  It felt good to see you loosen up, raising us six “feral” children on your own had sometimes made you quite tense.

And now we can both be proud of Talia who is a curl ambassador. She figured out how to manage her curls at a much younger age than we two. Yes, we’re all grown girls with heads full of curls … and I’m grateful for my inheritance.

Thank you and Happy Mother’s Day,

Maya

Dearest Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day to you, queen. This entire series of Mother’s Day letters was your idea, and that doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, because you are always looking for ways to make the world a better place. You literally heal children for a living. I am forever happily in your shadow.

In writing to you, I thought it might be nice to consider how our hair brings us together. Here goes.

Our hair signifies our mutual stubbornness.

Both of us were born in that fateful April-May window that makes us Zodiac Tauruses. We bulldoze our way through life, for better or for worse. Similarly, our hair does not take any of our nonsense. Much as you tried to teach me to braid it, put it in a bun, etc, we simply couldn’t tame our curls. This hair is here to stay.

Our hair signifies our mutual heritage.

We come from Jewish stock. People who have seen difficulty, persecution, death, and battled through it. Though you look less stereo typically Semitic than me, we still carry our mutual gene. You raised me with a strong sense of pride and identity, and I will never stop being grateful for that.

Our hair signifies our mutual drive.

I grew up watching a woman who took charge. You battled through life and took no prisoners. Before the phrase “zero effs to give” was popular, you  lived it. I still can’t believe how little you care about what other people think. It is nothing short of miraculous. Little frizzy haired Talia grew up watching you, a woman who embodied power, feminism, and drive. I now cultivate my career and celebrate my hair accordingly.

Our hair signifies our mutual connection.

Though Dad’s hair carries wave and my signature gray streak, your genes passed this curl on to me. Beyond that, you taught me everything there is to know in life. As I forge a life as a feminist, musician, and creator, I know that not one step I take could happen without the blueprint you provided. You are the strongest woman on earth, and I am so honored to celebrate you almost 15 years to the day when you discovered that little book, “Curly Girl,” and treated me to a visit to Devachan. Thank you, for loving and encouraging this little wild hearted, wild haired feminist singer from the beginning. I owe you everything. Happy mother’s day.

With infinite love,

T

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