On Saturday, a mom and fellow blogger I had never met outside of Facebook donated her son’s very first haircut to the Donna’s Good Things shave event for St. Baldrick’s. It moved me, this kind gesture, which I secretly thought of as “pimping the cut,” despite that being terribly uncouth.
When I first learned of the gesture I thought, “Oh, that’s sweet, like so sweet,” and went along the business of planning an annual event that hopes to raise $40-$50K for childhood cancer research. There are details, you know? As our event got closer, I started to pay more attention. There was a personal connection, I think, when I stopped to think about the significance of donating a first haircut.
First haircuts are important. Somewhere, in deep storage, wrapped in a softened paper towel and brown paper bag are my very first braids, cut off at seven when my curly hair was far too unruly for my mom who had just gotten a job and needed to be there by 7 am daily. Unruly curls need taming and taming takes time. Hence, the haircut and the anemic braids of a fine haired curly girl resting in storage, still important enough to hold on to all these years later.
Donna’s first haircut came not from a stylist while she was proudly sitting up in a barber chair shaped like a taxi cab. There was no lollipop at the end for being a good girl. No, Donna’s first haircut was provided by her neurosurgeon while she was anesthetized and lying on an OR table. And this isn’t even being melodramatic, but simply factual. That beautiful surgeon took the time to tie those first clipped curls of Donna’s with a pretty little blue bow and put them in a Ziplock for us to keep. I lost them almost immediately.
But I digress.
Here was a mom I didn’t know who was so moved by my daughter’s story of childhood cancer that she was offering up her son’s very first haircut. This beautiful boy will always and forever know that his blond curls that ringed his tiny toddler head helped raise money for children with cancer. That is quite a story.
St. Baldrick’s events are full of stories. I have come to understand in my three years of hosting them, that choosing to shave is very much like choosing to adorn yourself with a tattoo. There is usually something very personal and moving behind that choice. And folks on the outside don’t always get it.
But sometimes, like with this boy’s Mom, you get to hear the story and understand what went behind the choice to shave to raise desperately needed dollars for pediatric cancer research. In her blog, The Tot Wrangler, this funny, sparkling, snarky Mom gets serious and emotional. And I, if even for a moment, get to be the proverbial fly on the wall.
And it is an odd wall to be on, when someone uses words to try and imagine the worst, more terrifying moments of your life. And more so, when she is successful. The Tot Wrangler’s little one had his beautiful curls shorn off and he was bald. But beyond that, with his wee little stature, his bald head made him look more vulnerable than he really was and Mom describes powerfully what that feels like. Read it here. It will move you and help you understand what it is like to parent a bald child.
Another shavee, moved by Donna’s story, opted to shave her own hair, also raising lots and lots of dollars for research. In prepping for event day, I take a look through the shavee list, wondering who I know, who is a returning shavee (my favorite kind), who is new to the fold. This year we had 11 men and 11 women signed up a few weeks ahead of time. Our events are known to attract a lot of women shavees, no doubt because of this here blog. Most of my readers are women, yo.
And this year, like the two years previous, are women I don’t know, haven’t met, willing to do something I myself have not done — get intimate with a set of clippers. Very intimate. This astounds me and flabbergasts me and makes me feel all ‘I wanna run for the hills’ because of the enormity of the gratitude I feel towards them.
It’s hard to find the words, but I will use the ones I wrote earlier tonight:
When I am brutally honest, I can admit that I frequently wonder what in the hell I ever did to be surrounded by so many abundant expressions of kindness and generosity. Like yours. I have no idea how I am so blessed.
And as I sit here late at night writing this, I am literally shaking my head, cause, yes, these amazing, humbling, beautiful and powerful gestures of kindness towards my family and our cause, many from strangers, started way back in 2007 with Donna’s diagnosis, and they have never stopped.
They are overwhelming in the most lovely of ways. I will never, ever be able to properly express the gratitude I feel for them. It is an endless well of thankfulness inside me, constantly flowing and sometimes pulling me under so profoundly that the only thing that helps is an hour of inane reality television, preferably with a Real Housewife on a House Hunt somewhere or other, where the people are not so grateful.
Does that make any sense? Probably not. I’m still trying to figure it out.
The takeaway from this here post is one of gratitude. Thank you to all the folks who so thoroughly support our efforts to raise money for St. Baldrick’s, the number one private funder of pediatric cancer research. I know that like Donna and like me, you have something in you that led you to this kindness of yours. You mean something to me, even if I fumble too much to properly express that to you. Even if I sometimes get so overwhelmed by your brave and continuing acts of kindness and compassion that I want to run for the hills for fear I will never be able to repay them. Even if I don’t always know how to say it. Thank you.