Friday, September 12, 2008

a chance occurrence

I went to a new place to get my haircut today.  The idea is to not have to take out a second mortgage every time I get my hair done, but as most of you know, I've had one long year of bad haircut after bad haircut, so I had settled into one completely overpriced salon, and was just grinning and bearing it.

But now all this furor over possible layoffs at Eric's work, and so we're scaling back on a bunch of "extras" in case, come Christmastime, the good folks at Eric's work decide to let him go.  That means no traveling to visit family for a while.  That means fewer donations to the Obama campaign.  It means no new house projects.  And it means no more trips to the expensive salon.

So I try a little place by home this time.  A few minutes into the cut and the stylist asks if I work, am a SAHM, what.  I say, yeah, yeah, have two kids, am a working mom, you?  And she says I had three but my little boy--he was three years old--passed away in May, choked on a hot dog at daycare, you probably heard about it on the news.

I had heard about it.  Or Eric told me about it, actually.  I was brushing my teeth one night and he said, hey, did you hear about that kid around here?  He was at daycare and choked on a hot dog and died.  Can you imagine?

I did hear about that, I said.  I don't know what to say, I said.  I'm so sorry.  Tell me about it.

Of course my first instinct was to get out of that chair and run, run away, because my worst fear in the world is of that, of one of my babies dying in some horrible way like that.  Being in close proximity to that kind of grief, the grief of this woman who is otherwise nonchalantly cutting my hair, shampooing my scalp, putting in foils, was terrifying.

I didn't do that, run away, of course.  I talked to her about it, asked questions.  I said I could imagine how hard it must be to have that be in the news, and to have people not want to talk to you anymore because you are the walking incarnation of their very worst fears, and she seemed to appreciate that I did not break down or ignore her or offer platitudes, even though I had to check myself at every moment not to do those things.

But then I got in the car afterwards and cried.  I cried over her going over and over those pictures from the coroner's report of the plate with the hot dog--ripped into big pieces, not cut into small ones--trying to figure out what happened.  I cried about the picture of her three boys, framed in front of me at her station, the littlest one, with the glasses, now gone.  I cried about her older boy's fears and tantrums, and about the middle boy, who sat there at the daycare table while his baby brother choked to death, the daycare lady yakking out in the yard.  I cried about the clients who don't come to her anymore because they can't be near her and her pain, can't look at the picture of those boys while getting some pampering.

Ah, God.  What use are my tears?  What use is it for me to write about it here?  He wasn't my child, my chidlren are safe now, at home with Eric.  I don't know this family.  I just needed a haircut.

But that little boy...gone.  I can't get it out of my head today.

1 comment:

  1. Weirdly, after reading this powerful entry, I found this in O Magazine:


    Most of us are never conceived.
    Many of us are never born--
    we live in a private ocean for hours,
    weeks, with our extra or missing limbs,
    or holding our poor second head,
    growing from our chest, in our arms. And many of us,
    sea-fruit on its stem, dreaming kelp
    and whelk, are culled in our early months.
    And some who are born live only for minutes,
    others for two, or for three, summers
    or four, and when they go, everything
    goes--the earth, the firmament--
    and love stays, where nothing is, and seeks.

    -Sharon Olds