Betty Duffy

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Chunky Hair and Tornadoes

My friend, Letty, owns a couple hair salons. At Pedge’s house the other day, it came to light that Letty does the hair of a prominent Catholic matriarch here in town, Mrs. M. It’s a small world among Orthodox Catholics, and Mrs. M is known, not only for the vastness of her brood, but also for having spazzy hair. When one first meets her, it’s tempting to think, “Please get a hair clue, Mrs. M.”

We’d all been thinking about visiting one of Letty’s salons, but maybe...not a good idea.

“Don’t judge how I do hair based on that particular client,” Letty said. “She requests her colors in chunks. She wants it chunky, chunky.” Letty grabbed chunks of her own hair as she said “chunky” and I could see Mrs. M making just that same gesture. “The client is always right.”

So the spazzy hair is intentional. It’s exactly what Mrs. M wants. It’s…self-expression of a sort: chunks of vibrant color in crispy little spikes all over her head. It’s punk, now that I think of it.

On this particular day with Pedge, Irene and Letty, we had a discussion about letting go of the idea that there’s something else we’re supposed to be doing besides staying home with our kids. Letty was taking a break from coloring hair because she’s pregnant.

We’re in our thirties; “something else” sometimes feels like a do or die prospect. We’ve got to write that book and make something of our lives, because we can’t hide our lights under a bushel, and we’ve had a bunch of kids already, and surely God wants us to do something more.

Or does he? Maybe he just wants us to stay home. Maybe this is all there is. Maybe we’ve been deluding ourselves and we’re going to rob our children of everything they need and deserve from us.

It’s been a couple of years now that Pedge and I have been hammering these issues out. This year, during Lent, it’s become pretty clear to me that there is no Act II. It’s not do or die; it’s keep on chugging.

Have detachment from what I want my life to look like, and detachment from what I don’t want—which would be something like having another baby every two years for the next twenty years of my life. Live in what is, rather than what may be.

When I told Pedge these things, she said, “So what are we supposed to do then? Have another baby?”

“Not necessarily. Not just because we need a goal, anyway.”

We sat in silence for a minute, letting the dreams dissolve, at least for this afternoon.

“If this is it,” Pedge said, “I’m getting the chunky hair.”


My cousin recently asked an unsuitable young man to step out of her life. Her attachment to him made the decision a hard one. But she felt good about spending Easter Sunday focusing instead on the Risen Christ.

The trouble is, the young man decided that Easter would be the day he went back to Church. He sat right behind her, looking in her direction throughout most of the service.

My cousin said God was testing her: “Are you going to let that boy steal your heart again, or are you going to focus on me, like you said?” And it was a struggle, being watched all through church, so difficult that by the time we met up afterwards, she was on the verge of tears. But she made it; bypassed the Sunday dinners she’d been eating with him and his family, and came instead to spend Easter with us.

When she told me the story, it was those words, “…like you said,” that struck me. They sounded so much like a parent disciplining a child, “Are you going to do this like you said, or am I going to have to come make you do it?”

At the same time, there was something sort of poetic about them, something of a covenant. You said it, and so it is. Your word means something to God.

That night, before bed, I said Compline for the Easter Octave, and there were those words again:

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia
The Son whom you merited to bear, alleluia,
has risen as he said, alleluia.

Would we rejoice so much at Christ’s Resurrection if he hadn’t told us about it first? It was the fulfillment of his Word. He did it, just like he said, and it gives us hope and assurance, then, that everything he said is true.

Words mean something. Makes me want to take a fine-toothed comb over everything I’ve ever said, especially the covenants I’ve made to God. Will I go forth and sin no more, like I said? Will I love, honor, and obey, like I said? Words mean something.

Today was eighty degrees and gorgeous, with just a hint of humidity that let us know there would likely be rain later in the day. I was itching to go for a run, to burn off some of the Cadbury eggs that keep walking into my mouth. But right when my husband got home, the weather finally delivered on its promise. The sky opened up and let loose a terrific thunder storm.

So we went ahead and had dinner. We worked the kids through their homework. At dusk, it seemed the storm had passed, and I seized the moment to go out and run. There was no wind at all. The sky was green and pink. Not a soul on the road.

I had the Ipod on shuffle, and “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” came up. Hadn’t heard that song in a couple decades, and it sort of matched the weather, so I let a few bars pass, before I heard, in the background, dim as could be, the tornado siren going off.

I looked around and didn’t see any suspicious clouds, except for one that looked sort of like a mushroom cloud. Death wasn't imminent, but I feared for my life anyway. If not the tornado, it could be some other disaster, a nuclear one, a meteor. At any moment, the world could go up in a poof, and really, I DO NOT want to be listening to The Smiths when that happens.

It was enough to cure me of the Ipod until I’d made it home safely, and I’m considering going through my files and deleting any music to which I could not stand to die. It would be curtains for about 90 percent of what’s taking up gigabytes on that little machine.


Lisa said...

Betty, this is what I love about your writing -- the way your mind works in seemingly unrelated -- and yet very related and pertinent "chunks." Good thoughts here, all of them. Separately and as a sum.

On thought #1, though, I have to comment --- I've wrestled with this vocation/avocation problem myself, and have come to the hard, but stress-relieving conclusion that this IS all there is, the raising children thing -- but as anti or non climatic as it seems to be, especially in the mind of the world -- it's an amazing job. Saving these souls (and mine, too) is a very, very big and important task....

Blessings! And happy Easter Week to you and yours.

Rebekka said...

1. So lovely.
2. 80 degrees??!!!!!!

Karyn said...

I'm now curious what song would have been acceptable in a potentially life-threatening emergency...definitely food for thought. I remember I turned on some reggae during one of my homebirths but decided I didn't want the baby to enter the world on that musical score - amazing the power of music.

Jamie said...

I've been thinking about this post all day. We prayed the Regina Coeli before dinner -- "as he said."

BettyDuffy said...

Lisa, Thanks for your comment. I really do sense a restfulness about people who have accepted their life as it is. It's a relief to me when other people are at peace. Couldn't figure out why, then, I kept myself in a constant state of restlessness. Of course it's only been a couple of days since I've accepted the idea of this being all there is--but I do feel peaceful. As Pedge said, we're like the kids who complain about going to Burger King when what we really wanted was MC Donalds. There's nothing to complain about.

Rebekka, 80 degrees, but it never lasts in Indiana. Will probably freeze again soon.

Karyn, I've been thinking about that same question--music to die to. Today, the Regina Coeli sounds about right.

Jamie, I saw tonight that Father Schall wrote an article: "Ressurexit Sicut Dixit" at Inside Catholic, with much greater theological insight to what the prophesy means.

Hope said...

When I wonder 'if this is it' in my life I remember what I either read somewhere or someone said to me that at the end of the day or really, at the end of my life, the question will be "how well did you love." That helps me put it all in focus although I still really want to win a 35 year old bet with my brother that I will have a book published by the time I'm 50. :)

Rachel Gray said...

I really like that idea of deleting any music to which I could not stand to die.