It’s not fair!” she said as she climbed into the back seat and pulled the door shut a little harder than necessary.
“Pardon me?” her mother said, catching her eye in the rearview mirror as they drove out of the school parking lot.
Fairness was something Katie understood, even if she was only seven. Fairness was when a grownup said that if you did something or quit doing something then something good would happen. Unfairness was when you did the something you were supposed to do and the grownup forgot all about it.
Just yesterday her mother had told her that she couldn’t have long hair until she stopped dawdling in the morning. So, this morning she got right up, dressed and came downstairs before anyone even knew she was awake. She pulled on her socks and her cords and her turtle neck, which she had to take off and put back on again because the first time she got it on backwards.
But now they were on their way to see Dee to get a haircut!
“Mom, why are we going to Dee’s?”
“It’s time for a haircut. Your bangs are too long for one thing. Remember last week when you went swimming? You told me that the reason you lost every race to Michael was because your hair was in your eyes.”
“I know.” Katie wished she’d never told her mother that, but she was mad about losing.
“I know I said that, last week, but, yesterday you said if I quit dawdling in the morning I could grow my hair out . . . and this morning I didn’t dawdle. I got up and got dressed and came downstairs right away.” She paused, then wrinkling her forehead and looking at her mother in the mirror she continued. “Remember? You said you were proud of me.”
“I was proud of you.” Her mother smiled at her in the mirror. “’One swallow does not a summer make,’ my dear. Besides, I made this appointment weeks ago.”
Katie stared at the back of her mother’s head. Some of the things her mother said didn’t make sense. “I am not talking about birds. I am talking about having long hair. Like Abby.”
Abby and her cousin Shannon both had long hair. Sometimes they wore it in a pony tail, and sometimes their mothers braided it. And sometimes it was just parted in the middle. That’s the way Katie liked it the best because when they bent their heads over a worksheet or spelling paper, it fell down on either side and hid their faces.
Katie did have another friend with short hair: Jocelyn. She and Jocelyn often talked about growing their hair out.
“Jocelyn says she’s going to grow her hair out so long that it comes down to her feet.” Katie reported to her mom, who rolled her eyes. “That’ll be the day.”
“I just want my hair to be long enough so that when I swing my head from side to side, it swishes back and forth.”
The haircut proceeded as planned. After Dee cut her hair, Katie swung her head from side to side and back and forth and nothing happened. Her hair just stayed put.
“It looks nice honey” said her mom. Katie gave her a wary look.
They got back into the car and drove to the swimming pool. Katie’s mother just didn’t like long hair. Every morning while she was growing up she had had to sit on a stool while her own mother braided her hair. She told her it was braided so tight that it hurt but she couldn’t move or it would mess up the braids. The first time she went to scout camp, her counselor couldn’t braid, so by the end of the week, her hair was a snarled mess and she didn’t get to go back to camp for a long time. Finally, when she was twelve, she was allowed to get her hair cut. Now it seemed like Katie would have to wait until she was twelve before she could have long hair. Twelve, Katie thought. She didn’t even know anybody who was twelve. The oldest kid in her school was only eleven.
When they got to the swimming pool, Michael was waiting for her. “Wanna race?” he asked. Michael always wanted to race and last week he won every time. This time, her hair didn’t get in her eyes and she didn’t have to stop even once. She won two of the races, Michael won one.
“I got there first!” Michael insisted after the fourth race, but his mother called it a tie. “How come you were so fast today?” Michael asked her as they left the pool.
The next day when she got to school, Jocelyn and Shannon were talking to a new girl – with short hair. Katie put her book bag in her cubby and ran right over. The new girl turned to Katie and smiled.
“Abby, Abby, what happened to your hair?”
“I got the end of one of my braids caught in my parka zipper so I cut it off to get it out. Then I cut the other one so they would be even. When my mom saw what I had done, she took me to the beauty college. I told the girl that I wanted it real short like yours so I could go swimming!”
Abby ran her hand through her short brown hair, and then swung her head from side to side, and her hair didn’t move. Katie was stunned; then she smiled and did the same.