We’re a hockey family. Just turned out that way. So floppy sheepdog hockey hair is something I came to terms with years ago. For a while the boys chose (with some encouragement) to get one haircut a year before school started. Then the season started and as the schedule grew longer so did their hair. Eventually one boy decided to skip even the back-to-school trim and opted for the chin length mop.
It’s that time of year again. We’re back on the ice. Games have started. A tournament looms just days away. So I was startled when Qaiden asked for a haircut.
“Wait, what?” I asked the rearview mirror. I saw him push the damp shaggy fringe out of his eyes. “I mean, of course. Not tonight, but we can definitely get you a haircut.”
I wasn’t about to press and accidentally talk him out of it.
So after a handful of tightly packed evenings and Mondays when the barber is closed, we found ourselves driving up to the barber shop just before 5:00, sweaty from cross country practice but with no more sports for the night.
The waiting area was crammed with men and boys and their accompanying moms and siblings. It looked like standing room only. But there are five or six barbers who keep things moving.
“OK, do you have a pocket? Here’s the money for your haircut. I’m going to wait out here.”
“How much tip should I give?” Q inquired.
I was impressed he’d thought to ask so I figured this was it, a good chance for independence. He’s going to be the one to say how he wants his hair cut anyway. I’m just the driver and the bank.
I pulled out a book and settled in at the outdoor table to wait. I finished a few chapters. Several people came out. Several more went in. I craned my neck to look for the bright jersey Q was wearing. Yup, still there in the corner with his headphones in. Back to my book.
Well, it started to get chilly. My fleece was now zipped to my chin and I realized I was 70-odd pages into this book. I put my finger between the pages to hold my place and walked inside to the counter with a sign that clearly says:
Please Sign In Here.
I checked the book for his name. I flipped back to the previous page. All those names had been crossed out. His was nowhere to be found. The waiting room still bristled with new people sitting and standing too close together. There he sat, looking mildly bored with his headphones.
I added his name to the list for “First available” barber pressing a little harder with the pen than was strictly necessary.
“Qaiden.” I watched for him to look up, “Qaiden!” When he glanced my way I pointed to the book and he shrugged. I couldn’t help it in that moment, the mom eyes flashed “really?!”
I huffed and puffed my way outside. Too irritated, and chilly, to sit at the table any longer I headed for the relative cocoon of my car. I continued to read, but fitfully, a couple of pages, crane my neck to get a glimpse of him. Couple more pages, squint to see into the waiting room.
Until I looked up and the shades had been drawn down. Closing.
Again I huffed out of the car and over to the door. As I opened it and peered in there was only one other man remaining in the waiting area and he was watching his son on the barber’s chair. Qaiden remained in his corner.
After a quick conversation with the only barber not currently cutting hair–a conversation in which I really hope my words were less sharp than my eyes felt–he said someone would be with us shortly and proceeded to wrap the cape around the last man standing.
I was left to chit chat with his first grade son and his lollipop.
I was left steaming. Too irritated to talk. Too much a teacher not to respond to an innocent six year old. (Really, who could be mad when someone half your height is showing you his wiggly tooth?)
As the first grader kept pointing out, the clock now read 6:30.
Finally, as the other barbers packed up and walked out to their evening freedom, one young barber called Q to his chair.
I was prepared for the world’s fastest, slap dash haircut so he could get home, too. I almost welcomed it so we could get home for dinner on the one night there was nowhere else to be.
But he took his time. Shave. Shave. “Do you want it shorter over here?” Snip snip snip. Comb. “How’s that?” Comb. “How about some gel? Let’s style it up.” Squirt, rub, toussle, comb. Blow dry. Brush. Blow dry. Brush. Snip snip snip. “How about the warm foam?” The what? “Oh yeah, for a cut like this you have to.” Foam slathers the back of Q’s neck. Out comes the straight razor. Scrape. Scrape. Swish swish swish to brush away the loose hair.
Then off comes the cape.
I swear he looks two years older.
“Thank you for taking your time. He looks great.” And I tip to assuage my irritation and guilt.
I wrap my arm around Q and squeeze his shoulders as we walk out.
“I’m really sorry, Mom,” he says deflated as we sag to the car.
“You know what? Don’t worry about it. Your haircut looks great,” I assure him. “And I bet you’ll never make that same mistake again.”