I was nine-years-old and I really wanted to cut my hair. But my mom wouldn’t let me. She said I had to wait until I was fifteen. It was tradition.
One Friday afternoon, I was doing the dishes and contemplating how much I did not want to wash, brush or braid my hair the next day, when I was slapped by pure genius. To bring my imaginative genius into reality, I needed a piece of gum. I had no gum. My older sister did, so I did her part of the chores—mopped the living room floor and swept the porch—for a piece of doobleh boobleh (that’s how I used to pronounced Dubble Bubble in Spanish).
I’m sure you know what my brilliant nine-year-old mind did next. Yes, I chewed the yum out of the gum and then stuck it to my hair, hoping it would have to be chopped off.
My sister found me standing on a chair in front of the mirror. She grinned, and said, “Mami’s going to beat you to death.”
I panicked. “Help me get it off.”
She grabbed a brushed and began to work.
Thirty minutes or so later, my scalp was on fire, the brush was lost in my hair, and my sister’s expression was somewhere between amused and anxious—she was almost a decade my senior… and she had given me the gum.
“You need to wait until Mami gets home,” my sister said before walking out of the room.
My first thought was, You better climb a tree and never come down. Then I remembered that my mom was visiting with her best friend. If I went there and caught her while she was in a good mood, I would probably get out of the situation with a little smack and a few choice words.
I ran to the house of my mom’s best friend, the hairbrush scraping my scalp with every step. When I got there, my mom and her friend were drinking coffee and divining the numbers on the patterns of a dieffenbachia leaf.
The gum, the hairbrush and tiny bits of my scalp were removed from my head with a minimum amount of physical and verbal unpleasantness.
But nope, no haircut; in fact, the anecdote you just read is not even the reason behind this post. I’m sharing it because I wanted to say that I’m amazed—and sometimes terrified—by the way memory works. You see, about an hour ago, my tummy was feeling funny, so I was chewing a piece of gum while I did the dishes. Then I watered the plants and waited for a pot of French vanilla coffee to brew. I was turning my dieffenbachia plant, so that the leaves would face the sun, when the twenty-seven-year-old memory hit me like if it had happened yesterday.
The whole thing made me think of a quote from Bellman & Black, by Diane Setterfield: “Rooks are made of thought and memory. They know everything and they do not forget.” What a lovely and peculiar circle, this memory thing… isn’t it?