In the second grade I sat on a kitchen chair as my mother brushed my long, dark hair and tied it with a black velvet ribbon. Then she cut off my ponytail. She thought I’d look cute with a D.A. Duck’s Ass. The ‘do of the day. In the 50s.
I was without opinion.

My grandmother was not. There was abundant emoting when she reviewed my short hair putting me in a bind between two women I loved and trusted. Did I look awful? Did I look good? Did I dare be seen outside?

When I think of grandmother Vivian, I'm seated, nestled against her on her huge, deep sofa, my feet nowhere near the floor. She strokes my head and says, “Darling, you have the most beautiful hair.”

Again, I was without opinion. But I was glad that she liked it because she was beautiful. I thought she must know.

After she died and my parents cleared and sold her home, they told me they’d found some things among her belongings that I might want. My notes to her from camp, recipes. And a tissue paper package, folded and carefully placed in her drawer. The ponytail of a seven-year-old girl, tied with an aged, crinkled, black velvet ribbon. 

My grandmother kept it. It was that beautiful.


  1. I wandered over here from one-minute writer. We must have grown up around the same time and place. I lived in San Mateo in the 50s and went to St. Matthews. I had a beautiful long ponytail that was sacrificed to the shears of my cousin who'd just graduated beauty school. The result was a most unflattering "bowl" cut. I think your D.A. was probably more stylish and you had a nicer grandmother, too.

    1. I grew up in Redwood City and went to St. Pius before negotiating a peaceful settlement and moving on to San Carlos High School. Live in San Mateo now. Very nice to meet you!


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