As one gets older, memory seems to be selective at times. Tonight , I am selecting to remember my parent’s beauty shops. Wonder why? Well, whether you do or not, I’m going to tell you . The other day, I went into Sally Beauty Supply to get some rubber bands for my horse. My friend and I were going to style her mane. I love beauty supply stores. I tend to see some, but not many of the products my mother used as she styled many a womans hair. Even more than seeing the products, I love going into older beauty shops because I smell the smells my mother’s shop had- permanent wave solution, hair spray, the smell of the hair dye as it processed on the women’s hair. The warmth and sounds of the hair dryers. I begin to think how the dryers were so nice and warm the motor and the heat lulled you sleep just before they went off. After the dryer went off,the women would slowly and sleepily open their eyes, lift the bonnet up and wait for the hair dresser to come get them.
“You dry, Mrs. Gifford,?” my mother would say, taking a roller or two out , feeling the warm curls. She’d guide Mrs. Gifford to her chair and begin taking rollers out of her hair and brushing it, carefully, but quickly back-combing it into a bouffant – the style all women wore at the time.
My mother was working when she went into labor with me. Her blood pressure had gone up so high the doctors knocked her out. She was out for three days when at last, she opened her eyes to my dad saying they had another girl. Denying she’d had any baby yet, she had slept through my delivery and first few days of my life. No matter- I didn’t know the difference. I’m pretty sure, although I don’t know exactly, that my mom must have gone back to work just as soon as she could. She loved her job most of the time and after all, she did own the place. I’m sure these beauty shop smells were among the first I inhaled.
Well, growing up, my sister Martha and I were constantly in the beauty shop. On Saturday afternoons, Mother fixed our hair for church. I wore a pixie cut when I was little, but as I grew, so did my hairstlyles. I wore a pageboy for a long time and then a neckline. I was always envious of my next door neighbor’s ponytail , but was not old enough to realize I had to grow the hair out instead of my mom “cutting one.” Being young is nice sometimes. You can’t be blamed for what you don’t know or understand. It’s funny to everyone though. By the time I was in junior high, I sure didn’t want a bouffant anymore. It wasn’t in style and I was becoming all too aware of what the styles were, what people were wearing and what they were laughing at. I was the object of the laughter with those poufy hairdos. So, I began to grow my hair out and since it was the 70’s , after all, I made sure to blow dry it as straight as I could. Never mind I had the curliest hair -especially when it was humid. Ringlets were mine unless I blew my hair dry.
My mother worked until three weeks before her death. She was 82. I loved going to the shop to shoot the breeze with her and smell those smells. Beauty shops, these days, don’t really smell like that anymore. Hair sprays don’t smell the same and as for those old hair dryers- not many exist in most shops these days- there is no lull of the dryer to put one to sleep. I miss that. I miss going into a beauty shop, smelling those smells and seeing my mom standing over a head of hair brushing and back combing. But, oh, how blessed I was to grow up in a place with such memorable smells and visuals.