Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mom: The One Constant in my Hair Loss Saga

We had been in Parsippany for a year, maybe two, when Mom discovered my first bald spot. I was four years old.

The way she tells it, she had been tickling me on her bed when she accidentally observed a round patch of bare skin on my scalp.

I can picture the two of us trying to be quiet while Melanie naps in the second bedroom. I am sitting on the thin, ribbed, yellow bedspread, watching Mom fold Dad’s white undershirts into neat little packages the size of a slice of Wonder bread. One by one, she stacks the slices on the bed and then walks the whole loaf to a drawer. I follow her every move with my eyes and mindlessly stroke my sockless foot.

“We got a lot done today, Miss Christy Lou Who.” She talks just above a whisper as she approaches the bed, grinning. “Now it’s Christy time.”

"Mommy, there’s no such thing as Christy time.” I giggle.

“What? Of course there is! It starts like this.” She leans in and tickles my belly.

“Mommy, stop!” I squeal, erupt in laughter, and wriggle my slender body away from her spidery hands. I am not fast enough to escape, nor do I want to be.

“In Christy time, everything is backwards. Stop means go! Stop means more! Are you sure you want me to stop?” She is fluttering her hands on my arms and my feet.

“Mommy!” I extend my arms to push her away, and jerk my head back and forth. My long blonde hair flies in every direction.

“Oh. Oh my.”

It takes me a few seconds to realize the tickling has stopped. I relax all my muscles and sink into the mattress. I am breathing heavy from the fight.

“Sit up, baby.” She pats the bed.

I sit up, dangling my feet over the side of the mattress.

“Stay still a minute.”

I stay still, but my eyes wander the room. I look at the yellow lamp on the nightstand. At the wall closet with the open accordion door. At Mom’s blouses and mini dresses hanging on the rod. Such pretty bright colors and patterns.

Mom probes my scalp with her long, slender fingers. It calms me. My breathing slows.

“Mommy, why does Melanie have curly hair and I don’t?” I tilt my head.

“Everybody’s different, Christy. Some people have beautiful curly hair like your sister and some people have beautiful straight hair like you.” Mom has found the bald patch on my head. She is touching the raw skin, just like I will years later.

“Is that why you don’t have blonde hair like we do?” I close my eyes and lean into my mother’s touch. I don’t know what she’s doing, just that it feels good. “Cuz everybody’s different?”

“Well, yes and no. Some things you can get from your mommy and daddy. You girls get your blonde hair from your daddy. He had blonde hair when he was a baby.” She gently pushes my head down. My long locks cascade over my face.

“But his hair changed to brown when he got bigger?” I am a rag doll.

“Yes, yes it did.” Mom’s brow furrows but her tone remains calm. She wraps her arms around me and squeezes. I fold into her arms.

“Is my hair going to change when I get bigger Mommy?”

“I don’t know. Probably.” She holds on for several minutes.

***

My hair changed alright, in ways we never imagined. Through it all, Mom was by my side. She researched alopecia and found doctors, support groups, wig shops, and berets. She yelled and threw fits when I wasn't treated the way she thought I should be. She sewed Velcro strips of hair into baseball caps and then made scarves - many, many scarves, in every color of the rainbow.

Happy birthday, Mom. And thank you...for everything.

© 2009 Christy Bailey

2 comments:

Joanne said...

Great tribute to your mom! i enjoyed the story! You should consider writing a book!

ljrenfrow said...

I agree with Joanne. You write very well. And I appreciate your retelling of these events.