Dear Decaturish – A barber remembers memories made at Salon Red Kids
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Editor’s note: Salon Red Kids closed its Decatur location in July.
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Fifty-three years old and restless in my empty nest, I applied for a job at Salon Red Kids.
That was ten years ago.
One of my first customers was a little girl, seven or eight years old, named Hava.
Great hunks of hair had been chopped by her own hand but hidden behind dark-framed glasses was the face of a woodland sprite, full of mischief and magic.
Her mother whispered to me that she feared I would make her look like a boy.
Remembering my own childhood foibles, I knelt in front of her snipping first the left side and then the right, doing my best to ease her imaginings with my words, when suddenly she lurched forward tipping the booster seat and wrapped her arms around me, giggling. I dropped my shears and lifted her from the chair in a warm embrace.
In that moment, I felt myself returning to me, back to wonder.
I honestly never expected to stay so long. It was a part time job. A way to pay oﬀ some debt, maybe go back to school.
But I fell in love.
I fell in love with Decatur.
I fell in love with your children.
And with you, the moms and dads and nannies and grandparents, aunts and uncles.
I fell in love with your stories. With your lives, With your heroic journeys. As with so many things in life, I thought Salon Red would always be there.
But the sign has been taken down, the little race cars hauled away, the lollipops packed up and the old door closed for the last time.
When my father ’n law passed away two summers ago, his wife of sixty-seven years said to me through her tears, “I thought we’d have more time.”
On that final Thursday, I put down my shears and unsnapped the turquoise cape. I hugged my last curly headed angel and asked my manager Quinn, “How many?”
“Fifteen thousand, nine hundred ninety-three haircuts,” she replied. I am grateful for each and every one.
Your faces roll past me now like a lazy river. I want to wave you all to shore, tell you how much your lives have touched mine, how your generosity changed me in countless ways. I want to tell you how your struggles with parenting gave me compassion for my own grown children. I want to thank you for poinsettias and Christmas cards. For holding me close in my days of grief. I want to remember your words…
“I spent the night with Papa and Woo. We had pancakes and cocktails for breakfast.”
“Are these gummy eyeballs vegan?”
“What do you want to be for Halloween, David? Maria, from the Sound of Music.”
“He looked like Gene Wilder before his first haircut.”
“I’m four now. Does it feel different being four? No. It feels like being three. I miss three.”
“I have a fish named JimBob. He doesn’t talk. He swims a lot.”
“When I grow up I want to be a train driver, a country singer, graffiti painter and an architect.”
“I want my hair to look like a great horned owl, but not too high on top.”
“I was a mermaid for Halloween. Oh, that sounds lovely. What color mermaid were you? I was pink and cup-cakey.”
“We like it shaggy and long. He’s got a good size head. It helps cover it. He looked like Thomas Jefferson on his first birthday.”
“His teachers wanted him to be Sonny Crocket for Halloween. He looks like Patrick Swayze in Point Break.”
“I don’t have to be turned toward the movie. I’d rather look at myself.”
“How old are you? I’m three but I’m two at the aquarium.”
“I’m married. Her name is Maddy. We got married by a friend at a bar-b-que last summer. I was four. Why do you love her? She plays superheroes with me. She’s really bossy. She tells me what to do and I say yes and then just don’t do it.”
I want to dam up the river and make a lake where we can stay forever. But rivers are made to roll on.
Space is a geographical location. Longitude and latitude.
Space is 123 East Ponce.
Now that’s a diﬀerent story altogether. Place is the meaning one puts on a space.
Fortunately, I am a meaning maker.
When I walk past the space, I will remember the place and the lovely time we shared on that river.
May you be well.
May you be happy.
May we forever be free from the illusion of separation.
– Debee DiMenichi, “Miss Debee”
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