Baby's First Haircut
We cut my baby’s hair last week for the first time.
When he was born his hair was thick and dark. Then it fell out. What little hair he kept turned into wisps so light they were basically invisible. Two years later they’re the color of wheat, and they are ready to be harvested. My husband, the family beautician, turns on a tv show so our baby will sit still and gets out the scissors. When the job is done hair lies around the chair like wheat fresh from the scythe. I reap a lock of it for his baby book, and a memory I have stored falls forward as I do.
It’s the fall of 2016, my newly barbered baby is at this point only four months old and still has a full head of black hair. We’re in my grandma’s craft room in Michigan, on a trip to introduce him to his great-grandparents.
The craft room is where my grandma stores all her family history. She’s volunteered at the local genealogy center for as long as I can remember; family history is one of her passions. Not surprising for a woman who’s so devoted to her living family. The family history gene is so strong she passed it to me. I cannot get enough of family stories and facts and theories (theories: Native American ancestors, Prussian royalty, our last name is probably Irish, etc). We go through boxes of old family photos and documents, most of which are new to me. I’ve heard lots of stories, but rarely have we gone to the trouble to get out the artifacts. She tells me more stories and points out family members with vaguely familiar names in grainy black and white pictures. There are wedding certificates and newspaper articles and my Grandma Ruth’s life history as told autobiographically in cursive writing on notebooks from the supermarket.
And then we find my grandpa’s baby book.
It is the cream of the family history crop.
We pore over the yellowed pages. We find out when he had his first tooth, his first orange juice (four months!), his first steps. Slightly colored baby pictures of him, chubby and angelic. Black and white pictures of him at the lake as a toddler. Notes and dates all in my great-grandma’s writing, the first time I have ever seen it.
Then we find the page. It is labeled, “Baby’s First Haircut.” Attached is a thin brown paper envelope. Inside, unbelievably, are light wispy locks. My grandpa’s baby hair, preserved for over 70 years.
My grandpa passed away in August of 2007. He was in his early 60’s. Over nine years earlier.
Yet here is a wisp of him, preserved. A literal part of my grandpa in my hands. Touchable.
The moment stands still and clear. My eyelashes pick up a tear. I am silent and marveling as I hold a wisp of him. As I hold a wisp of the love my great-grandmother felt for her tiny son, carefully preserved. Lasting longer in this world than either mother or son.
As I carefully bobby-pin my own baby son’s hair, I wonder. Who will find my baby’s wheat colored locks? A great-granddaughter of mine? All of my yet-to-be grandchildren and great-grandchildren? I hope. I put the hair in a Ziploc bag and write the name and date on it. My eyelashes pick up a tear. I imagine my great-grandmother carefully collecting and labeling my grandpa’s baby hair. Placing it lovingly into his baby book. I pick my son up and snuggle him. I think about how my great-grandma must have snuggled my grandpa, the love palpable between her arms. The wispy locks snuggled in the pages of the baby book.
Both of their bodies are gone, but there’s three new generations that can still touch that love.
And now my baby’s generations can someday touch mine.
You sow what you reap.