Sunday, May 30, 2010

20 Years Ago . . .

I love memorial day. Honestly, I never thought of it as a patriotic holiday growing up. We did more honor to all of our departed ancestors than just military. A big part of that, I imagine, is the greater number of non military ancestors.
I have so many memories of memorial day (wow that sounds redundant!) But there is one memorial day weekend that will always come to mind before others. And it's been exactly 20 years ago.
(ok, so at this point my entire family knows where I'm going with this. But for the 7 of you I'm not related to, I want to share my tale. My family can just indulge me.)
My parents built a cabin. Determined not to go into debt for this luxury, they decided to quickly finish the outside and then complete the inside on a when-funds-available plan. This story takes place in the first year or so of the work.

I loved my Dad. Hero worshiped might be a better phrase. My father was not blessed with an abundance of sons. Knowing this, I was determined to be the second son my father never had. From my current adult perspective, I'm sure I was usually more hindrance than help. Nevertheless, I was a very willing extra 9 year old hand.
On this excursion, brick was on the list. It was one of the last things needed before the outside was complete. My dad took an extra day for the long weekend, and we headed up to get the brick laid.

I remember so many things about that particular trip: sleeping in the top of the camper with my dad snoring below. Getting all our water from our wonderful neighbors. My dad joking when I pointed something out "Second mistake I've ever made in my life. And the first time was only when I thought I was wrong but wasn't!". The beautiful sunny weather making the spring leaves glow on the mountains. Dad knew when the shadows started up the mountains across the valley, we better start cleaning up. He sent me over to clean out the mixer we were using for the mortar.

Honestly what happened next I've blacked out. One minute I was wiggling two plugs together to get the machine started, and the next I was sobbing in my dad's shoulder. Later my dad would tell me that he heard me screaming and knew exactly what had happened - my shoulder length hair was caught in the pulley. He jumped off the scaffolding and ran to my side, all the time wondering if it would be better to disconnect the power underneath me (a time consuming process), or go to the source across the street. As luck would have it, neither was needed. By the time he reached me my hair was no longer attached to my head, and I pulled away.
We were over an hour away from a hospital. He looked me over, saw there was no bleeding, and decided the best choice was to quickly finish cleaning up and drive home.

I still remember my mom's gasp of horror when she saw my head. I believe her next words were "has she seen a doctor?" She got on the phone to a nurse and described what had happened. That's when I learned just how lucky I was to only loose my hair. It could have taken off my face too.
And it wasn't all my hair, just the back. A few weeks later we actually thought to take a picture. I spent a hour today searching for that picture. I have no idea where it is! So here's my phenomenal artist rendition:
No, I didn't forget my face. There really was that much hair gone from the back of my head. Completely smooth off. And I got home around 8:00 pm on a Saturday night. Off my mom ran to the store to try and find SOMETHING to cover that up for Sunday. Armed with two clearance Easter bonnets, I at least could not horrify the ward the next day. She also picked up a cap for school (which required special permission to wear).
Later my dad would go back and dig out all the hair he could from that pulley. My mom carefully arranged it, sewed it into a strip of fabric, and I had a wig of my own hair. Every Sunday, we'd carefully brush it out and load it with hot curlers. Then Mom would pull back the remainder of my hair into an elastic and pin the wig on. I still have the wig (a bit worse for the wear!)

I only wore the hats for a few months school got out. By the next year enough had grown in that I was able to sport an awesome side pony tail until we cut it all short. But I learned a lot that year.

I learned how to roll with some punches. That it was easier to get help from a teacher than chase stupid boys around the playground to get my hat back. I learned that how I looked didn't change who I was. I grew confidant in my ability to handle difficult situations. I learned when life gets hard, there isn't much you can do except keep plodding on and make the best of it.

We are the sum of our experiences. While I'd never wish having the majority of your hair ripped from your scalp on anyone, this is one experience I am grateful for. Much of my confidence and "just go for it" attitude I can trace back to a small yellow cement mixer 20 years ago.

Happy Memorial day to you all.


I found the picture. My drawing had me loosing less hair than reality! This was taken a few weeks after, when my hair had already started to grow back. And to this day, I still seriously wish we would have taken 12 seconds to brush my hair. But at least I have the picture!


  1. That is one I will never forget either. I enjoyed your reflection and hearing what you learned. You are a great example to me!

  2. 20 years ago I would have never thought to hear that you were grateful for that experience. I do remember being very proud of you for the way you handled all the teasing and unkind comments. If that helped you become the woman you are today, I'm also thankful it happened.

  3. This story certainly makes me feel blessed about my son's Tourette's Syndrome. I used to cry and cry that he had to be asked about why he makes those sounds or shrugs his shoulders. But he always says, "Because Jesus made me that way!" He's perfectly happy in his "flaws" and, because he's confident, so is everyone around me. I am so beyond grateful for this life lesson, even when I feel bald in my soul from sorrow, just like your hair was ripped from you. Our appearance might beg otherwise, but our souls are what shine. You've done good, girl.

  4. Wow! I can't believe you still have the wig!!!! :) Love You!

  5. Laree I never knew how that happened. I remember that though in elementary school and wondering what had happened. So glad you weren't hurt seriously! Your blog is so funny!

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