Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Shaggy Hair, Sagging Pants, and Split Feelings

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Today, the sun caught the curled-up ends of your wild, strawberry blond, long-since-untrimmed hair and carried me back to those first months of your life when I refused to let anyone near your perfect, round head with so dangerous a weapon as scissors. Your hair started out spike-straight, then grew and curled, grew and curled, until people told me, everywhere I went, what a beautiful baby girl I had. They said it even when you had on that tacky football outfit your father loved. They said you were beautiful. That was as far as I heard. I did not care whether they thought you male or female. Your face then was fat and round and soft, protecting both of us from the hard jaw of approaching manhood that has recently developed.

Today, when the sun caught your hair, I caught a glimpse of both the baby and the man. I took the same gasp I took when the nurse first put you on the outside of my belly; the same gasp I have taken so many times since, at the sight of you, my first child.

Today, you stepped inside the car, asked, "How was your day Mom?" You looked right at me and waited for an answer.

"Good," I said. I ventured only a glance out of the corner of my eye as I pulled out of the parking lot, and found you still staring, backlit by the sun, an icon of adolescence, like my very own twenty-first century Elvis, clearly waiting for more. I felt the sun and your steady gaze begin to melt away the sick, balled-up feeling I'd been carrying since our argument yesterday.

Then, I saw only the split ends on your shaggy hair. I saw your sagging pants, bad grades, worse attitude. Then, I was glad to hear all those things thump up the stairs, flop on the bed, kick the door shut. I cooked our evening meal as usual, set the places at the table, filled the water glasses. I called for you to come. I was relieved that you chose to simmer the night away alone. I sat at the silent supper table, simultaneously feeling content that you snored through the call to come to and sick at my own relief.

Today, in the car, I felt you watch me, waiting, and I wondered how it was that less than 24 hours ago, I could have been so far from you as to be relieved that you chose to sleep off your anger, skip dinner, spend the night tucked away in the covers of your own feelings, without sharing.

Today, when you sat in the passenger seat, I found relief of a different kind, seeing that, for now, the worst of you seems to have boiled off, floated away like steam rising from the pavement on a hot summer day. What is left is the sun on your hair, your jaw looking not set but strong -- sturdy enough to withstand what is to come and not so edgy as to be unable to ask, "How was your day?" and to listen for my answer.

Heather Magruder is a freelance writer and teaching artist who lives in the Piedmont region of South Carolina with her husband, two sons, and daughter. She is on the South Carolina Arts Commission’s Artist Roster in fiction and poetry and is pubished in a variety of periodicals. Heather is senior editor of Greenville Magazine and associate editor of SouthCarolina Magazine. She is currently working on a collection of essays about her Scottish and Irish grandmothers and great aunts.

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