It’s that time of year when we rummage through stuff and decide that which we can jettison and that without which we just cannot bear life. It is a ritual, one for which the Puritans’ John Winthrop would be patting me on the back (if he indeed were allowed to touch a woman other than his wife).
It’s called Spring Cleaning.
It’s called Ruthless Culling of the Mass of Crap I Have Accumulated. In bureaucratese, the RCMCIHA of 2011.
In the world of professional wrestling, it’d be called Nostalgia Nellie v. Storage Space.
Each year I face tough decisions and like Florida’s Republican controlled state legislature, facing sins of over borrowing and undertaxing in the past, I face "the tough questions:” Do I cut the article out of my life, or do I “kick the can” down the road and live with it for yet another year? Do I “reform” or “re-store?”
And everything is “on the table.” Everything.
Except my pink hair comb.
My mom gave me my comb with I started junior high school (that right there should let you know the time frame we’re talking about). It was a rite of passage. I was now officially “taking care" of myself. It was an important thing to have a hair comb of "your very own." It meant I was truly making my own wardrobe decisions and preparing myself to set out on the day to day grind of life at school. I was "all grown-up."
That comb has travelled with me through all the phases of my life. It untangled my tresses before my high school prom. It separated my hair into sections for braiding before I went to my first anti Vietnam War protest. It changed my hippie center part into a stylish side part as I slid on polo shirts and denim skirts to go off to various accounting and management classes at various colleges.
It safely followed me and my kicky disco do from radio station to radio station as I built a career reporting news. It went to Washington, D.C. when I moved to take a major market “big time” job. I admit it now. I did have a brief dalliance with a tortoiseshell colored purse sized comb. But it was the big pink comb that went with me to open a mike at a radio network in New York.
Not to mention the sheer number of hair styles that it has tamed. I’ve already mentioned the long pin straight hippy do. Well, my pink comb was no slouch. It continued through the “Linda Eastman shag,” the “Mary Tyler Moore style bob,” the “Audrey Hepburn Gamine short” haircuts, some in my natural color, others in various shades of red and even stark white platinum “Billy Idol blonde.” It has been coated with styling products from gel to perms to spray to mousse.
It’s been through boyfriends, some serious, some not so serious. I must note here that I did not use it to take care of my hair on my wedding day. That day, in fact, was the first time I actually went to a hair dresser. Maybe that’s why the marriage didn’t last. I suspect not, but it does now, in retrospect, provide a more cogent and forgiving explanation than the “I-probably-was-too-young-and-stupid-to-realize-I was-marrying-the-exact-wrong-guy-at-the-exact-wrong-time-in-my-life-for-exactly-the-wrong-reasons” theory.
It has crossed rivers with me on my travels. The Mississippi, the Potomac, the Colorado, the Hudson. The Nile. The Volga, the Jordan, Rhine, Rhone, Tiber. The Seine. The Blue Danube. It’s been places. It even crossed the Suez Canal.
And I still have it. Oh, it’s not in real good shape. It’s been through good times and bad. It's been through love and loss and joy and disappointment. Some teeth may be gone, but I won't let it go for that shallow reason. It's become a part of me. I can rely on it. It's the only thing I actually put away in the same place all the time. It is a daily hommage to my mom, whose "if you put it away in the first place, you could find it now" mantra still rings in my ears.
Nope. It stays.
I must again make a note though: As the years have gone by I notice my pink comb seems to grab onto and retain more hair than it once did. Perhaps as I hold onto it as a part of my past, it just wants to hold on to me too.