The Haircut That Couldn’t Be Undone

(Unsplash)
(Unsplash)

A magical day is marked, and a crowd is invited

It’s the community’s dream to be a part of each big and little holiday that comes out of our Chabad House: a house for all. They mark it on their calendars and wait excitedly with restlessness for each special day to come.

An upsherin (first haircut for a boy of 3) is marked with a pen, markers, and most importantly: bated breath. The Chabad family’s eager anticipation is most welcome as we all wait in unison for the event to begin.

However, after three long years of tangles, curls, and our close community’s warm compliments for our little son, I, like most mothers, had a hard time parting with my little son’s hair and what it meant to me.

He is now no longer my little boy, but a boy coming of age for cheder, his school: no longer little ponytails, or hugging my skirt, or the reassurance that all is alright in his little world.

My little son, now a big boy, would feel ready for life. I, like most mothers, would wait eagerly to be called if I was needed. To the one observing, it was like magic: when I wasn’t called, I would wallow in my own self-pity; when I was called, my mood would change, and I would get busy at my fussing and mothering once again.

This time has arrived, all too soon for me, which will turn the page, and holy hair will be forever gone. In its place will stand the yarmulka, a symbol of the G-d fearing Jew, the elevated person, and the proud mentsch to be among his brethren of today.

The day quickly announced itself, as if the time had run out, and began filling our home with a jittery movement. This continuous rush of liveliness told us that the day was in its element. As Hashem’s (G-d) helper, he began playfully throwing tumultuous waves at me as each hurried hour passed.

My kids were falling over each other and begged for the right outfit to wear for this most special occasion. Their excited hands and feet were dancing to the tune of their practiced 12 verses meant for such times of joy as these.

In the midst of all my rushing and getting each child settled, my husband gets a long-needed haircut by his very close and dear friend. His friend, known for doing excellent haircuts, had my full confidence and agreement. The two continue to talk and hasten their steps to greet us all in the car.

One would think in the morning before an event, are you kidding me? However, I knew it wouldn’t interfere in my preparations for the program, for by the time my boys finally allowed me to settle them and find each of them their designated places, the haircut would be long over.

As my husband came outside, I noticed that he went a bit faster than usual and had an extra smile on his face. I thought to myself, this is wonderful, a great haircut for a great occasion. When my husband bent his head down to go into the car, my mouth dropped in horror, for everything was wrong with his shortened locks.

The haircut was anything but nice, and half of his head had no hair at all!

I couldn’t even comprehend what I had just seen — let alone that we were 10 seconds away from greeting many happy, eager congregants.

Oh, vey (oh, no)! What would they all think? What could I say, or my husband say? It was over! I was readying myself with many explanations and preparing to be a laughing stock.

His friend looked so ashamed and embarrassed, repeating these words over again,“ I have no clue what happened: one second it was a great haircut, and the next second, the good moment was replaced with a bad one! It was like the razor had wings all on its own.” Breathing very fast, he finally took one long breath, gave up with explanations, and quieted himself down.

I couldn’t say a word because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and really what could one say? It was a mistake — this mistake on this day — that could not be undone. The haircut was final, and that was that. The car finally stopped, and we all slowly entered the Chabad House.

The door slammed shut behind us, and the kids, the rabbi, and I began our melody of “hello” and “ thank you so much for coming.” The pat on our backs and hugs were special, but the little whispers had caught my overprotective eye.

They had noticed the horrible haircut! What was there to say, do, or act? I was embarrassed for my husband and wanted to crawl and hide in another room.

My husband, the rabbi, continued to shake everyone’s hand as if all my worries were exaggerated, and it was me making the situation to be more than it was. He said in a calm but excited voice, his announcement to introduce the upsherin customs and why it’s a special day.

His loud voice, full of happy emotions and heartfelt goodness, was enough for all of us to forget for a moment what had happened and to move on with this special, new beginning.

My son then had his beautiful, clean, and lovely upshern, and he became everyone’s smile, like a lit chandelier in a dimmed room. He stood there with pride, and his head held high, allowing each person to partake in his mitzvah (commandment) and take off a part of his curls.

His brothers and friends loudly and sweetly sang songs and chanted the pesukim: the 12 customary verses.

My husband’s haircut and butchered hair became like a small forgotten tale of so long ago or how I hoped it would be, and I tried hard to enjoy this great simchah (joyous occasion) of ours: my little boy becoming like the rest of the clan.

It seemed before I could even grieve for his gorgeous curls, now forever gone, he was bouncing around and singing loudly with the rest of his people.

Goodbyes were said, and leftover hair was placed in a bag for safekeeping. The last of the footsteps slowly moved away, and it gave me a chance to reanalyze the situation. At that moment, to rethink it all, there was a deep admiration that I knew I could have never done.

My husband had me shocked, and I asked him quietly about his new look. My husband looked at me, and then straight ahead, in a very focused but quieter voice.

He said his friend meant well, and it was an accident. His friend seemed embarrassed, and it was necessary to keep moving forward, even coming to Chabad House programs looking like this.

My husband then looked straight at me again and said, “Besides, it’s just hair, and it will grow back.” I saw that his demeanor had slightly changed a bit through actually talking about it, but he had no regrets.

What had happened had happened, and there is no looking back but only moving forward. After all, the rabbi again emphasized, “It’s just hair, and it will grow back.”

Even though that meant for the next month, or more to his classes, hospital, and house visitations, Shabbos, Friday nights, and minyan mornings, it will be excruciating for me, or to any other ordinary person.

However, there was no time to smell the roses in dwelling on the past, but to him, there was only time to keep placing one foot in front of the other.

It was just a small obstacle, and maybe not really an obstacle at all if one’s mind can empower itself to go above a silly and accidental mistake. After all, it’s just hair, and it will grow back.

About the Author
Born in New York state into a family on Shlichus, Esther was formally trained in Chabad institutions in America and Canada as an educator and community leader with the lifelong goal of helping an under-served Jewish populace. She and her husband, along with their children, have been serving the local community, as well as the Northeast Wisconsin region, for over a decade, providing for any and all needs of everyone's personal journey with G-d.
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