hair loss

The Annual Autumn Dance

Head-banging November 1st, started with my hair dryer shorting out. There was a back-up dryer in the basement that our guests from England and Paris had used in October. With me, there is no direct route from A to B in my house. I stopped to wash dishes in the kitchen on my way to the basement when it happened: a long curl fell over my left eye. I gave my head a bounce and more followed. Earlier, while getting Liam ready for school, it was only 32 degrees. I knew we had a freeze the night before because Bill fell down our deck stairs on the way out the door at 6:30 a.m. I heard a rumbling and crashing noises then silence. I flew outside bare-footed and pranced as the bottoms of my feet hit a thin, cold layer of ice. Bill was standing, stretching his back, and wiggling his wrists. A taxi was in our drive waiting for him to start his bag drag to China. “I’m fine… really, I’m fine.” Afraid of missing his plane, he walked away with a cup of hot coffee all over his shirt and suit coat. Silly string from Halloween antics stuck to his butt and his bag. Yes, it had dipped to 32.

“Why do I have to wear this creepy equipment?” Liam complained as I re-introduced him to said equipment. Winter gloves. With one step outside, he knew. “Whoa! It is cold!” and he snuggled the hood of his winter coat around his ears. The rainbow of silly string all over the drive reminded him of Halloween night. “Last night was so much fun, but I hardly remember any of it!” Often, I take this boy’s statements and superimpose them upon a 17-year-old. And my eyes grow wide at that thought. Liam’s preschool teacher six years ago called him “spicy.” That still applies, plus he has a very funny, twisted command of his vocabulary. In particular, I love his “rainbow auras.” Translation: sunsets.

Back to my hair. It’s about the length of Steven Tyler’s from Aerosmith. And with it bouncing around, I start singing the chorus from “Sweet Child of Mine.” I fall into that lyric after a dose of the spice. I screech it like Tyler but discover that morning that it’s actually a Guns’n’Roses song. This kid has no ballad associated with him. It’s all “Oh, oh, oh, oh sweet child of mine…” screaming and racing up the staff then losing intensity and dropping back down with another “Oh, oh, oh, oh sweet child of mine…” And in my rendition, “nah-nah-nah” makes up all other words in the song.

That morning, I stepped away from my standards – away from country, away from Sinatra – one of Will’s favorite artists, away from the female swooner Adele. I fill up the feed with hard rock. The dishes get done to screeches, confident guitar licks, and songs for which I only know the choruses. I could be singing lyrics about any number of socially unacceptable events, but they are turned innocent with my “nah-nah-nahs.”

I’m letting it all loose dancing around my kitchen when I realize where I am in the year. November 1st. Life in October held an incredible, bursting intensity with good friends visiting from Paris and England, Will’s 13th birthday, our 24th wedding anniversary, a big kick-off event for scouts, yet another 50th birthday celebration for me with gymnastics moms, a weekend away with my quilting friend, and a decked out Halloween. October. I rode it like a roller-coaster, knowing it had a wild start and would come to a calm end. And although I’m a day late, I realize this is a very personal annual celebration for me.

In the shower seven years ago, I washed away stubs of hair from my buzz-cut head. And the intensity of life every October since then reminds me how lucky I am. And every year, I dance… with wildly happy hair.

P.S. Some days, like today, a beautiful liquid muse is most effective.

Do you remember "Dancing on Halloween Morn?"

Dancing on Halloween Morn

Some stories take a while to write themselves: days, months, even years. This is Dancing on Halloween Morn.

Breathless.  It’s Halloween morning.  I haven’t been climbing stairs or jogging.  The music’s loud.  And I’m dancing in the kitchen.

October was a success.  Each day, for a second or an afternoon, I peeled back the heavy translucent rubber windshield comprised of problem-solving, decision-making, chauffeuring, worrying.  And I absorbed the colors and crispness of fall.  Colors burned impressions that will take me through to the next season of cold, through the seasons of warmth, until I stand again at October 1st.  Where I will prepare for that change which is now 47 years familiar.  With Halloween here and the month of thankfulness beginning tomorrow, I’m full.  Content.  Like I just ate a big Thanksgiving dinner that was blessed with my granddad’s words.

I cook.  I dance.  And tonight I will be a witch.  This morning, four years ago, I was GI Jane.  My hair had started to fall out with the chemo, so I had it buzzed off at 7:30 a.m. in the salon, before the days’ clients, the regulars, opened the salon door.  I was an irregular that morning.

This morning, I skipped the 3-product process to straighten, glossen, smoothen my bobbed, wavy hair.  It dried naturally.  Strings of velvet danced in the wind as I drove, windows down, that familiar route home from school drop-off.  My fingers felt it and remembered.  The short spikes of four years ago.  Soft chicken fuzz.  Tight, tight spiral curls.  Loose curls.  And now the luxury of these soft, wild, living waves.

So… we celebrate.  Me and my hair.  Loud music.  A steady, heavy drum beat.  We dance in the kitchen on Halloween morn.

Great to Be Alive

I’m still making my way in this “stay-at-home” mom role, not knowing what exactly that job description should entail, but striving nevertheless to be really good at it. That usually means constant movement through each day, normally to fortify the Malcolms and keep them afloat. I needn’t list the tasks, for we all have them. And perhaps like me -- no longer a farm girl who can count bales of hay put up or fields planted at the end of the day -- you have no idea where the day went or what you actually accomplished. Over the last few weeks, I’ve done things a little differently: put an “X” through two days a week to focus on writing; started a 21-day sugar detox; and exercised nearly every day. As a result I see more of what I haven’t done: 8 loads of dirty laundry scattered in the hallway and laundry room; more dishes and pans in the sink than normal; a loaded countertop of mail, packages, and breakfast dishes at 5 p.m.

After a bike ride Monday, I’m more OK with all of that today. With a goal of riding 112 miles over two weeks, I organized a bike ride for the four of us on Sunday. We rode 7 miles. Thinking I could get at least 25 miles done on my own, I drove out to the same bike trail Monday – really looking forward to knocking out a quarter of what was left. After 1 ½ hours, I dragged my pedaled-out legs and sore bum to the van, anxious for the total mileage. TWELVE miles? No. Surely more than that…

Red-faced and sore, I kicked the gravel stirring up some dust. I had parked near the bike trail in a quiet area of Groton, MA. Sunday the gravel lot was empty, but Monday several buses were parked next to a bus garage. They must have been on the road the day before. My quiet brooding over my lackluster accomplishment of 12 miles was snapped to halt when a bus suddenly revved up its diesel engine. I jumped and looked toward the roar. This is what I saw. Sometimes when I'm cussing under my breath while doing laundry, I lift my head up out of the sorting basket too quickly and catch it on the sharp, sharp corner of the cupboard. I take that as a sign: Less complaining. More grace. "GREAT TO BE ALIVE" was like that, only less painful.

I get it. Generally, most of us have been in tougher places than where we stand today. Considering three years ago this week I was focused on recovering from chemo and radiation, I would say 12 miles biked is pretty darn good.

Great to be alive. More bus ticker signs... fewer sharp cupboard corners. Please.

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