Giving it another try

Salon visit becomes a moment of kindness, thanks

Readers share stories of thanks from along the road. I’ll be posting them through this Thanksgiving month. Even though the original deadline is passed, I would love to read more. So if you’re inspired, please consider writing and submitting. Check here for the guidelines.

by Elizabeth Huss

My story of thanks takes place inside a hair salon in the Shoppes at Burlington. My 8-year-old son, who’s on the autism spectrum, needed a haircut. I know that it’s best to get a kid’s hair cut every six weeks, but let’s just say I usually stretch those six weeks out as far as they can go. This story may help explain why.

We were the first customers at the hair salon on that cloudy Sunday morning. A young woman of about 18 with long blonde hair and a pleasant smile walked up to greet us. I said a quick hello while running interference between my son and the little bowl of lollipops on the front desk. She smiled and directed us to her work area in the otherwise empty salon.

“Okay, hop up into the chair,” she said to my son.

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Elizabeth’s son

My son climbed into the chair. I wondered if he was finally getting used to this process. The woman took out a black cape and draped it around my son. Three seconds later, the cape was on the floor.

“He’s not too crazy about wearing a cape,” I said, laughing halfheartedly.

“Well,” she said, looking at the mop on my son’s head, “there’ll be a lot of loose hair.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I’ll clean him up after we get home.”

I immediately pictured the inch-thick coating of his brown hair on the sleeves of my sweater. It wouldn’t be the first time my sweater had been through this.

The woman started to spray my son’s hair with a water bottle. He swiveled his head to dodge the mist. Next she took a comb and scissors from her apron and began separating lengths of his hair. Suddenly he grabbed her wrists. Gently, she tried to free herself from his grip without hurting him with the scissors.

“I’m sorry,” I said, tears starting to burn behind my eyes. “I can hold his arms.”

I put him in a firm bear hug while trying to give her adequate space to work. It was a ridiculous pose, and I hoped no other customers would walk into the shop. As she worked the scissors, I met my son’s eye and frowned at him as he squirmed. I couldn’t imagine how she could get a straight cut while he rehearsed his own version of the Twist.

“Good job, bud,” the woman said a few minutes later as she put the scissors down.

I looked up at her with a confused expression. Were we in the same hair salon?

She lifted an electric trimmer out of its stand and clicked it on. I closed my eyes. My son struggled at the sound of the trimmers as they approached his sideburns. My bear hug loosened as he slid toward the floor. The woman clicked off the trimmers, watching my son.

It’s surprising how tired a person can be after a simple five-minute haircut. But I was more than that. I was embarrassed about my son’s behavior and wondered why in the world he couldn’t just sit and enjoy the attention to his hair.

“I think we can let it go at that,” I said, somehow getting my son back into the chair. “It looks better.”

She and I looked down at his long sideburns and bangs that hadn’t been touched. I waited to hear her sigh of relief and swift agreement.

Instead she said, “Why don’t we give it another try?”

I stared at her. I’d given her a way out of this stressful, certainly frustrating, situation. We would’ve paid and been out of her life. But she wanted to give it another try.

She let my son examine the trimmers, putting his fingers on them to show him they weren’t sharp. When his haircut was complete, I paid and thanked her. And my son finally got his lollipop.

Outside in my car, I sat behind the wheel and felt thankful. Thankful that this pretty young woman, who came in on a Sunday to cut hair all day, was willing to try again when it came to my son.

Elizabeth Huss is a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer from Florence.