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`Culture Shock’ is a continuation of `No Statute Of Limitations’. It too is true as to the best of my memory and recollections. I’ve only changed a few names and one location. To not make this remembrance completely depressing, I have attempted to add humor where I could (I know I’ll never write for Leno or Letterman, so I apologize in advance if it is too corny or just not funny). A little bit of license was taken with some of the story to try to make it more interesting. However, the incidences I relate happened with probably 90% accuracy. The 10% license was also used to fill in memory gaps as this did take place about 32 yrs. ago. I hope you enjoy reading it because I lived it. My mother’s battle with cancer is a theme in this story and is 100% the way I remember it, otherwise I would never use such a disease for just simple story telling.

In 1974 I turned thirteen and was on my way to one of the biggest life adjustments I would ever face. Before stepping on a Greyhound bus bound for Ashland, Kentucky on the morning of May 26, I had already endured my parent’s divorce, settled the question of my citizenship and decided with whom I would live with until I became an adult.

During the divorce, I felt like a prized trophy being competed for while my mom and dad played the most warped game of half court one on one. The judge hearing my parents divorce case also validated my US citizenship. I was born to an American mother and a Spanish born father, although he was only a few months old when my grandparents immigrated to the US back in the early 1920s. His Spanish birth made me a dual citizen of the United States and what is now the Kingdom of Spain. The fact that I was born in Dearborn, Michigan, lived there all my life and was totally acclimated to big city American culture played a huge part in choosing to proclaim my US citizenship once and for all. As far as the State Department was concerned, by a judge’s decree I was solely an American citizen. Under Spanish law, I was and still am considered a Spaniard who has yet to claim my rightful citizenship. To do so now would require that I revoke my US citizenship. That’s not going to happen.
I was torn as to what to do as far as custody and citizenship was concerned. I loved both cultures and wanted to maintain my ties to the `old country’ as well as being a red blooded Motown loving American teenager. Both parents assured me that no matter what, I would still be able to visit my mom’s relatives in Kentucky, West Virginia and in the Carolina’s as well as visit my aunts, uncles and cousins in Spain.

When the time came to make a decision, I was sitting in a Judge’s Chamber in the Wayne County Michigan Courthouse. Judge Fordham really did treat me, through the whole divorce process, as a young adult. He listened to me and let me defend my reasoning’s for the decisions I was asking him to make. He also loved to talk Detroit Tiger baseball, listen to my adventures from when I travelled Europe and was amazed at this thirteen year olds depth of knowledge in history, science, space exploration and geography. He did tell me we parted company with our tastes in music. He constantly had soft classical music playing in his Chamber’s, while he promised he would not hold my love of Motown and R&B music against me when he made his decisions concerning my welfare.

Being an American teenager, it was a no brainer that I would claim my US citizenship and from now on I would only carry an American passport to travel with. I also made the choice to live with my mother instead of my dad, because I felt I would be in a better area, by moving into the Detroit suburbs, and start Junior High School in a better school district. That part about better schools really impressed the judge. I think I took my schooling way more serious than most kids my age because I was a year older than most of my classmates, the result of my birthday falling three days short of the enrollment requirement for kindergarten back in 1966 with the rest of my friends.

When the divorce was finalized, I was `awarded’ to my mother’s custody much to my father’s heartbreak. What I did not know at the time was that my mother was very sick. She was battling a bout with ovarian cancer and would be under medical treatment in Detroit for several months to a year at least after her upcoming hysterectomy. My mom and her lawyer had counted on my choosing to live with her and my formal acknowledgment of my US citizenship. Once the divorce was final they petitioned the Family Court to have my US passport revoked and my visits to my father limited and supervised! They argued, that they thought he would try to kidnap me and return to Spain with me. They also wanted to send me to spend the next year while my mom underwent treatment to my mother’s family in West Virginia and/or South Carolina. This new judge, whose name I do not remember (I never even met the man), was not interested in my opinion about anything, he sided with my mother and her attorney on every point they brought up. My passport was revoked until I reached age eighteen, any contact with my father was to be supervised and limited and finally I was ordered to go to West Virginia and be placed under the joint temporary custody of my grandmother in WV and my mother’s younger sister in SC. The judge heard this case and the day after his decision, with two suitcases, a fuzzy black fedora and a bag lunch, I was on a bus to Kentucky to be met by my aunts and grandmother. I had no idea of what was in store for me. I just remembered the visits to WV and KY during summer vacations, and having a slew of cousins to play and hang around with. How bad could it be? Juan Pablo Butini was going to find out.
The bus ride to KY was long and boring. I think the bus stopped in every town between the Michigan and Kentucky boarder (it gave me an opportunity to freshen up on my Ohio geography knowledge and skills). I thought about Dad, Grandma and my sister Mary Elizabeth. She was lucky, she was twenty and married. No being up-rooted for her. It was sad because over the last four or five years, we became really close and bonded with a special little brother, big sister relationship. And hell’s bell’s, after the nightmare shearing she got during New Year’s Day ’69, we could only go up in our relationship with each other.
One good thing that came from that New Year’s morning, aside from us no longer wanting to kill each other, was the way our parents slowly started to treat us differently. For a good while we both still had brutally short haircuts (I was on the verge of finding out what a `brutal’ haircut really was, soon after arriving in the clutches of my aunts and grandmother), but the punishments started to become less frequent and not nearly as severe or painful. Then our dress codes began to change, especially after Mary Elizabeth made her first trip to Europe in the summer of `69. Starting in ’71, I was allowed to make my first of three annual visits to Spain and Europe. My clothes started to become more up to date and the dreaded monthly hair cuts were spaced further apart and became less drastic as my hair was allowed to gradually grow longer. By the time my parents decided that twenty-two years of marriage was enough, I was wearing pants with flared legs, multi-colored shirts and tie dyed tee’s, high top Converse sneakers, and platform shoes. I wore rayon, nylon, Dacron or any other `on I could get my hands on or my butt into (I would have wore Teflon if it were possible. I had to leave those frocks to the astronauts though). I still had no denim jeans, but I was totally into the Motown scene, the music and tried to look the part (I never saw the Four Tops or the Temptations wearing jeans, so I was okay about the no denim rule). My hair had now turned as black as my sister’s hair was; but, it never had the same length or shinny luster that her straight as a stick hair did before being hacked off by mom on New Year’s ’69. I was just happy to have a head full of curls, natural curls no less (Mary Elizabet
h told me on many occasions that she would kill to have my head of curls that I had inherited from my father and grandma. I’m still convinced that if she knew I was the cause of her New Years Day shearing, she would have killed me, and laid claim to my curls after scalping me. I think Gen. Custer would have had it better). My spirals rested on the top of my shoulders and beyond by about two inches or so and was brushed and gelled to the sides so that my ears were covered by black ringlets poofing out to the sides, I also primped about my bangs. If they got too long, they just started to curl out and poof out like a mushroom. The last year or two mom’s beautician down the street trimmed the bangs so that they just gently curled under and came about half way down my forehead. She also took thinning shears to my bangs area about twice a year to lessen my hair’s severe thickness. Okay. I was a diva in training.

Thinking about home, and Dad, Grandma and Mary Elizabeth, ate up a lot of time on that bus ride. Thinking about starting Junior High in WV instead of in the `burbs were kind of scary; but, it ate up a lot of time also and it would only be a year and I would be back in the Motor City and near Mary Elizabeth, dad and Grandma. Before I knew it, the Greyhound bus pulled to a stop and the driver announced `Ashland, KY’. One aunt lived in Ashland, the other in SC and my grandmother and my grandfather a couple of hours away in WV.

They were really glad to see me and me them, as my last three summer vacations had been spent in Spain and traveling to Paris, London, Rome, Athens, Munich/West Berlin and Lisbon. Now it was back to Mingo County, WV and Pike County, KY. The home of the famous or infamous `Hatfield’s and McCoy’s’, never mind that our family tree on mom’s side was filled with the feudsters (both Hatfield’s and McCoy’s no less!). We talked most of the way to my Granny’s house in WV, and I told them about all my travel’s and adventures the last few years. They seemed to enjoy it until I took off my, what I called `pimp hat’ (wide fuzzy black brim that went great with my platforms and lime green flared slacks. I wanted a purple or green hat, but that would have been too radical for my mom and dad). The rest of the way to WV they all took turns talking about and ragging me about my hair. Granny said it was shameful and I would have to get it cut before school started. My Kentucky aunt (Lisa) said she was going to wait until I went to sleep and then start shearing me (now I knew were my mom got her hair cutting instincts from). My SC aunt didn’t say much about my hair and was actually rather quiet for most of the trip. I figured since she was the youngest adult that I knew (about 35 years old) she would be more hip and up to date with styles and fashions. Just before we got to WV and Granny’s house, my SC aunt (Kate) hit me with major news. She told me I wouldn’t be starting school in WV as planned. It turned out that my mom wanted or needed Granny to come to Michigan to help my sister with taking care of her and she wouldn’t be back until well after the start of school. Then Aunt Kate told me that I would be leaving the next day to go to SC and I would start Junior High School there and live with her, Uncle Bob, and my three cousins. I thought that would be great. I had not been to SC before, and two of my cousins were around my age. Sarah was just a few months older and would be a year ahead of me (we would be going to the same Junior High) and James was two years younger than I was. The third cousin, Anna was just a toddler. Uncle Bob did some kind of electronic work at the nearby Savanna Nuclear Plant and was a Staff Sergeant in the Marine Corps Reserves (ugh).

Just a quick note, this was 1974 and the Vietnam War was winding down. Although I never thought of Uncle Bob as a `baby killer’ I was embarrassed and thought he was a total square because of his side job in the Reserves. This was before the Reagan years and way before Sept. 11. In a few years my mind and attitude would change thankfully. All I can say is that I was a victim of my times. It’s not an excuse, for being a smart kid, I was just stupid in so many ways back then and I’m sorry now. So maybe I had deserved what was coming to me.

I didn’t even bother to unpack at Granny’s, since I was leaving the next day with Aunt Kate to SC. Aunt Kate, Anna and I took off early the next morning and about half way there, we stopped in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and got something to eat. While we ate, Aunt Kate started to tell me what to expect, when I got `home’. She talked about doing chores, and going to church and Sunday school on Sunday and Wednesday, I would have a 9:00 pm bed time on weekends (Friday nights) and 8:30 pm on school nights! Right about this time my jaw dropped and hit the floor. I said something to the effect of `8:30! Holy shit! Are you fucking seri.?’ Before I could get that last syllable out, Aunt Kate’s hand reared up and smacked me in the mouth. Trust me it was no love tap. Her palm against my dirty mouth drew some blood from my lips. Then she said, “John Paul Wilson, when we get home you can expect a good blistering from me and Uncle Bob. We don’t tolerate blasphemy or foul language. You are going to straighten yourself up and fly right.” I was wondering to myself, `who the hell is John Paul Wilson?’ Letting that go, I just said, “Okay Kate I promise. I’m sorry, I’ll watch my language” as I dabbed the blood from my bit lip. Then she screamed loud enough to make several diner’s heads turn saying “John Paul I will not allow disrespect! You will address me as Aunt Kate and as ma’am. You will address your uncle as Uncle Bob and as sir.” My 35 year old cool and hip aunt just aged twenty years right before my eyes and turned into an old biddy. She continued “while you stay in my custody, any adult will be addressed as sir or ma’am when you speak to them.” I stammered “yes ma’am Aunt Kate.” Then I asked “Aunt Kate who is John Paul Wilson?” She said “Oh yes, that’s something else we need to get out of the way. Helen (my mom) also petitioned the judge to have your name changed to an Americanized form and since she is taking back her maiden name; your last name has been changed to Wilson as well. She explained to the judge that this would help to keep your dad from tracking you down so he could steal you and take you back to Spain. The judge agreed and a new amended birth certificate with your new name of John Paul Wilson will be mailed to us in a day or two. From now on that is all I want to hear out of your mouth. John Paul Wilson. You left all that Spanish garbage behind when you climbed on that bus. You can also kiss all of your Superfly, pimp clothes, the girly girl hair and all of that black ghetto music goodbye. During the next two days you will begin to look respectable, talk with respect to your elders and act respectable. I was beginning to cry and I asked “Aunt Kate, ma’am. please tell me why you are doing all of this to me. Why are you taking away my heritage? It’s half of who I am.” She said, “wrong mister, it’s who you were. Helen wants everything about that side of you removed and forgot. So does the rest of the family. I wish we could have got to your sister in time, but we couldn’t. Now we have you and there will be no going back. John Paul.”

The rest of the drive was almost silent, except for the occasional gibberish from Cousin Anna. Having left so early in the morning, we got to SC by early evening. I pulled my two suitcases out of Aunt Kate’s car and trudged them into the house and to my Cousin James’s room. I would be sharing a small bedroom with him and taking the bottom bunk bed. As soon as I sat the two suitcases down Aunt Kate came in to the bedroom and directed me to drop my slacks and underwear and to then bend myself over her knee as she produced a thick, wide wooden paddle. She then let loose with six smacks in rapid succession that was punishment for the cussing earlier that day. I yelped with each swat, but when she saw I was not crying, I was bent back down and given an additional six paddles.
This time I was yelping, crying and throbbing. My tears seemed to satisfy Aunt Kate as she said, “now let’s pull your underpants up, open your suitcases and see what you will keep and what will go the county dump.”

Not one thing was spared. My platforms. dump. My flared and bell bottom slacks. dump. Every color of sock under the rainbow. dump. All of my boxer shorts. dump. My crew neck tee shirts. dump. Every color of button up shirt with flared collars and psychedelic designs. dump. My tie-dyed pull over shirts. dump. My wide belts in white, green, black and red. dump. My wide brimmed fuzzy fedora/pimp hat. dump. Dump big time on the hat. My Detroit Tiger’s jacket. dump (Why?). Any piece of clothing or souvenir from my trips to Europe. dump. My Converse High-Tops (what was wrong with Chuck Taylors?). dump. Finally a dozen different cassettes with Motown and R&B music on them. dump. Two empty suitcases’s. attic. I left Detroit less than two days ago with two suitcases of my favorite clothes, memento’s and music. I arrived in South Carolina with two big empty suitcases and now several trash bags on their way to the land fill. This was so unfair, but little did I know worse was yet to come.
I was then stripped down to my bare skin by my aunt and ready to die from embarrassment, while Aunt Kate gave me a once over and then brought me a pair of my cousins too small whitey-tighties, and a pair of my uncles cut off sweat pants that were too big. Thank god for the draw string. She then gave me a tank top undershirt of my uncle’s (way too big also) and a spare pair of Cousin Sarah’s cheap flip-flops complete with daisy’s imprinted on the upper sole and along the thong strap! I felt like an idiot and I felt more naked than before. I hated shorts and sleeveless tops and flip-flops. Especially daisy flip-flops. Aunt Kate then said “Let’s get to K-mart and get you in some proper and respectable summer clothes and see about getting that mop of curls taken care of.” Proper and respectable summer clothes? All of my clothes that Uncle Bob has taken to the landfill came from J.L. Hudson’s Department Store (the premier department store in southern Michigan) and Sears & Roebuck thank you! Mop of curls! I thought `Oh God no, don’t mess with my hair’. Soon Aunt Kate was dragging me down aisle after aisle grabbing a package of my very own whitey-tighties (only three of them, I was told I won’t need anymore), a couple of packs of tank top tee’s, at least one package of tank tops was in colors. Five, count `em five, pairs of shorts (all with draw strings, no belts for me unless I was receiving it from Aunt Kate or Uncle Bob for some transgression. I guess they thought I would maybe hang myself?), three sets of summer shortie PJs (yes I will start wearing PJs to bed and like it or else!). Two pair of cheapie flip-flops (one for in house one for outside, thank god no daisy flip-flops. I did pick up a pair that had some funky rainbow and star designs on them and Aunt Kate slapped them right out of my hand. I guess not). Two pair of brown leather or leather like sandals (one pair open toed the other closed toe) was selected for me, mind you selected for me. Hello. don’t I have an opinion on anything I have to wear? The answer was a resounding no. I asked about calf high tube socks and a baseball cap. no socks or cap needed. I was told that I would get one pair of dress socks to go with the dress shoes, dress belt, neck tie and suit that Aunt Kate would select for me (gotta dress up for church on Sunday. twice even). What about replacing my perfectly good Chuck Taylor high-tops? Nope, no need for sneakers until school starts and then no high-tops (too ghetto I was told). I was being turned from a snazzy Motown disco boy into a pathetically pale beach bum. My snow white skin was going to fry in the SC sun and humidity. Just walking from the car into K-mart took my breath away. Even in the store sweat was building around my bangs and back of my neck. I thought that maybe a little haircut wouldn’t be so bad. Oh brother, I had no idea what was coming. I should have been looking around to see if Rod Serling was standing off to one side of K-mart toking on a Pal-Mal or Chesterfield and telling everyone in the TV viewing world that I had entered the `Twilight Zone’.

I did manage to tell Aunt Kate that my toothbrush was just about wore out and before you could blink an eye, she had me in the Health and Beauty Aids section. Miracle of miracles, I got to pick my own tooth brush and scent of Right Guard deodorant spray. Then I said, “You know Aunt Kate, you threw away my comb and brush (while at the same time picking up a jar of hair gel)”. At the same instant, the jar was snatched right out of my hand and back on the shelf (faster than young Kane snatching the pebble out of the hand of his aged and blind Kung-Fu master) as Aunt Kate said “Don’t worry about any of that, you’ll be taken care of”. I thought `oh no, it’s going to be way shorter if I don’t need gel, a comb or brush.” Then I thought, “Well maybe she already has a brush and comb I could use” (In those days I still looked to a glass being half full). I wasn’t foolishly optimistic enough to believe my hair would stay long enough for the use of gel, but with this heat having my neck and ears exposed didn’t seem like such a bad thing. The final indignity at K-mart came when she rolled the buggy with Anna and my new wardrobe in it to the women’s dressing room. She opened the bag of whitiey-tighties and pulled out a pair, then white tank top tee, followed by a pair of navy blue shorts and one pair of solid white flip-flops with a black thong band. She then pulled off Uncle Bob’s tank, pulled down his cut off sweats while at the same time pulling down my cousin’s very tight whitey-tighties. She left me standing there naked with the curtain only about half way closed while she gave tags to the sales clerk to ring up and got a bag to put the old clothes in. At least two girls about my age and their mother’s saw me standing in my birthday suit and started to giggle. I wanted to just die. Then Aunt Kate came back in and not even bothering to close the curtain pulled up my new underpants and new shorts, unfazed by my budding manhood. Talk about a bruised ego. She then slipped the white tank top over me and tucked it into my shorts! Finally she pulled my legs up, one at a time, like shoeing a horse and removed Sarah’s daisy flip-flops and exchanged each one with my white and black ones. In less than a day I went from Motown Disco King Wannabe (I dreamed of being the newest member of the Five Tops) to Ultimate Dorkmeistier. After depositing the bags in the car, Aunt Kate guided the buggy with Anna in it with one hand and with the other she had hold of me while the buggy rattled, Aunt Kate’s causal flats clomped and my feet flipped and flopped. Before I could ask, she said “Now you’re going to meet your Sunday school teacher and get that head of Brillo pad hair tamed. I noticed we were heading to a place called Sam’s Barbershop and Styling Center. I thought `styling center’ this can’t be that bad, could it?’ (I was still clinging to the glass half full mentality), while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that in a few minutes I would be saying goodbye to a good portion of my curls. Rod Serling, if you are ever going to go to commercial break now would be a great time to wake me up from this Hee-Haw Hell Nightmare.
Rod was not in the house. Maybe he was and he was just sitting back taking notes, toking and laughing his ass off. Well, we walk in the door, complete with a red and blue (mind you) spinning barber pole next to it, and the inside was screaming salon more than barber shop. Standing at a counter was a much older (say 40ish) guy talking to a really cute girl who couldn’t me more than eighteen if that (the receptionist, who was also his daughter, and sixteen!) took one look at me, actually my hair and (chest thump) smiled. Then after surveying the whole snow white, tank top and flip-flop clad image, she let out a small giggle (thud. so much for feeling good about my situation and m
yself). Aunt Kate said “Hello there Sam. I want to introduce you to a new Sunday school pupil and to a new client.” Before she could finish he said, “Hi there young man. You must be Juan Pablo. I heard you would be joining us for the next year or so. I look forward to getting to know you”. Aunt Kate corrected him and said, “No Sam, it’s John Paul Wilson now. legally (just turn the knife in my back and kill me now please).” He said, “Oh yeah, I heard Bob say something about that. I’m sorry I forgot. So John Paul, I’m Sam Reid and this is my daughter Tracy”. I squeaked out “Hello Mr. Reid, hi Tracy”. He said “John I’m just Sam” Tracy said, Hi and then smiled. Her smile, blue eyes, light brown tanned skin and mid back curly blonde hair was intoxicating and I thought `Thank you God and Aunt Kate for the whitey-tighties.’ Then Aunt Kate took over and said, “No its Mr. Reid and sir. Isn’t that right John?” I said “Yes ma’am, yes sir.” Then Aunt Kate got to the reason we were here. She said “Sam, he isn’t so much a young man and nephew as he is more like a little girly girl niece with that head of long hair and curls. I was hoping you could fit him in and take care of this mess.” Mr. Reid said, “Kate I don’t have any more clients today. I was just thinking about closing a little early so I could get a little rest before Tracy’s softball game. But I can take care of John in no time at all.” As he was walking back through a partition, he said, “So I guess to fit in with the family, do we want the usual?” Aunt Kate said, “Oh yes. Bob and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Actually he has given me some attitude today so maybe we could go just a tad shorter as a lesson.” Gulp! Forget the trim; I now knew this was going to be really short! When I last saw Jimmy a few years ago when they still lived in Kentucky (right now he was at some kind of church camp with Sarah), he had a short back and sides haircut with about maybe two inches (at most) on top. Back then I had just been allowed to start growing my hair out a little and felt sorry for him.

Flip-flopping through the partition was like daylight and dark. Gone was the salon d├ęcor, potted plants, pastel wallpaper and shelves of high-end hair care products and now I was right back in to a `60s version old style barbershop. Aunt Kate led me to the chair and said “Hit it missy”. While I climbed up and in to one of the two old fashioned barber’s chairs, Mr. Reid already had a white with red stripes cloth cape ready to drape over me (it turns out that the salon part of the center was behind a partition at the opposite wall). It settled loosely over me while he took a long tissue strip and wrapped it around my neck twice, thank you very much! A noose would have been more welcomed. Then the cape tightened up around me so all that was visible was a head of long black curls and ten bare toes clad in .99 cent bargain bin flip-flops. Yes, they were a blue light special. Ignoring my presence, Mr. Reid said “Are you sure about this Kate? Maybe we should ease him in with just a half or quarter inch crew this time or a nice flattop.” I had no idea as to the meaning of the tonsorial lexicon, except for bald, short, clippers and shears. Oh yeah and dork. Aunt Kate said, “Nope. Let’s dive right in. High-tight quarter inch horseshoe. Wide strip and clean below the crown and between the horseshoe and on the landing strip. Tell you what; just make it a one eighth horseshoe that should temper the attitude a bit.” I was thinking `What the hell are a horseshoe and a landing strip? Clean? Are their dirty versions?’ I was now seconds away from finding out, to borrow a line from Al Gore, the real `Inconvenient Truth’ about wicked barbershop haircuts.

I don’t know if it was stupidity, culture shock beginning to set in or the whitey-tighties cutting off blood circulation to the brain and other body parts, but I asked Mr. Reid “Aren’t you going to shampoo my hair and put a conditioner on it before you start styling?” Mr. Reid laughed (not in a mean way) and Aunt Kate cackled (honest to God cackled) when I said that. He said in between his guffaws that “I wouldn’t be wasting my time or Aunt Kate’s money on shampoo and conditioner anymore.” Just then the butterflies in my gut came to life and screamed to get out.

I didn’t even hear the clippers pop to life because of Aunt Kate’s cackling. I just saw the clippers with the peripheral of my right eye as Mr. Reid had tilted my head to my left shoulder and placed them at the base of my right sideburn. He used one hand to work his long barber’s comb under the section of curls by my right ear and lift, while the other hand moved the guardless destroyer of a teenager’s hopes, dreams and vanity in one steady motion. His first pass moved up passed the front of my right ear and proceeded up towards my right temple. Aunt Kate’s mouth proceeded to form a vicious smile. John Paul Wilson (nee Juan Pablo Butini) proceeded to fight the urge to throw up. At first my hair did not fall; I thought `maybe not so bad after all’. It just hung at an angle (my hair was so curly that the severed coils inner locked with the hair that was still clinging to life and my scalp). The second pass peeled away more hair and the sheer weight caused the cut hair to fall in a clump and come to rest on the cape right about where my chest was pounding. By this time the butterflies had made their way out of my stomach and where in my esophagus next to my pounding (and yes breaking) heart.

After witnessing the first lock of long curls free fall, my chin started to involuntarily quiver, my fingers curled up into two trembling fists and even the exposed ten little piggies clinched together almost pulling out of the rubber flip-flops. Observing the convolutions of my chin and toes, Aunt Kate’s vicious grin turned to an ominous cold stare. Then she said “John Paul, if you make a scene or start to shed little girl tears, I will have Sam stop long enough for me to use his razor strap and blister you so you will have something to cry about and I promise you will get worse from your Uncle Bob when you get home. Am I understood?”

All I could do was choke back a butterfly and stammer with a “ye. yes ma’am.”

Mr. Reid was now dropping coils of my hair that had rested above and behind my right ear. For the first time in several years I had an ear that was exposed and not covered by a blanket of black curls. It felt alien almost. He then swiveled the barber chair so that I was facing the mirror behind his counter as he pushed my chin into my sternum. The bare clippers were placed almost on the top of my shoulder blade as they maneuvered into my hair line causing the humming pitch of the clippers to change to a crackle. They plowed into my hair line and raised higher and higher making their way up and over my occipital bone and to my crown before being placed at the base of my neck and starting their upward journey once more. Now each pass of the clippers was releasing nearly fifteen inches of hair that had hung from the top of my crown to about two to three inches below my shoulder blade. After the third pass, Mr. Reid stopped the clipping long enough to clear hair from around the cutting blade and to add an additional drop or two of oil to the clippers. While he did this, I looked up for the first time and saw my reflection. Mr. Reid heard my sigh and saw a tear roll down my face as I saw the right side of my head devoid of any hair. The paleness of my skin contrasted with a grayish area around my right temple and ear, the sole microscopic remains of my formerly black curls. Aunt Kate careened her neck to look at my reflection, making sure there were no tears escaping from her view. Mr. Reid sensed my aunt’s actions and said, “John, I think I got some small hairs around your eyes there. Let me get a tissue and wipe them away.” He got the tissue and proceeded to wipe and dab the tears that had formed along with a stray hair or two. He then added, “If you get anymore little hairs in your eyes let me know so I can wipe them away. You don’t want to get your eyes all irritated and watery.” All I could
do was look into the mirror at him and say a heartfelt “Thank you very much, Mr. Reid, sir.” I then saw his smile reflected in the mirror telling me he would help keep me from incurring any further wrath from Aunt Kate. He understood how traumatic and difficult this was for me.
Mr. Reid proceeded to finish stripping my vanity from the back of my scalp (solid continuous motions from nape to crown) and then tilted my head to my right shoulder to start harvesting the hair on my left side. It took very little time for the hair on my left side to start falling and join the spirals that were already deposited on the cape and on the floor behind and underneath me. During this time, he continued to keep the barber chair facing the mirror. I understood it was not to inflict further torture as I saw my left side turn from shinny black curls to the grayish hue left by the very short stubble that remained. He stood between the mirror and Aunt Kate, so she could not discover that my will-power had begun to crumble. He dabbed my eyes a couple of more times to remove those tiny hairs that were making my eyes watery. Despite the action he was inflicting on me, I felt that Mr. Reid would be one of the few person’s that would make my year in South Carolina bearable.
Once the back and sides of my head had been clipped to nothingness, Mr. Reid flipped the switch to turn off the clippers once more; taking time to remove built up hair and apply yet another drop of oil to the cutting teeth. As he snapped an attachment or guard to the end of the clippers, I looked into the mirror and saw a mound of curls still attached to the top of my scalp. Long tendrils of curls abruptly gave way to bare skin. I raised a hand to feel the back and side of my head, instead of the ticklish stubble that I remembered from my short haircuts from several years ago; I now felt a scalp with the rough feel of sandpaper. When he saw me grimace at the touch he said, “Don’t worry, we’ll have that cleaned up and smooth in no time. Just hang in there awhile longer and it’ll all be over.”

The clippers popped back to life and he placed the clippers at the crown of my head and moved them forward leaving a very short path of hair down the middle of my head. The forward pass of the clippers left spirals hanging in front of my eyes and tickling my nose before dropping more fifteen inch locks onto my cape. After the second or third pass enough hair had fell to the point that the cape no longer held the weight of the cut hair. Large piles slid down and off the cape to land on the base of the barber chair, the floor and to entangle themselves between my exposed toes and the top sole of the white and black flip-flops. Three or four more passes released the last fifteen inch lengths of hair, leaving a quarter inch stubble. Sadly the last vestiges of my long hair, the two and three inch lengths that formed my bangs were then stripped away. Two quick swipes from side to side with the clippers and they too were gone. Mr. Reid removed the attachment from the clippers and then set the cutting machine on the center of my head about an inch inward from the hairline at my forehead. A short stoke left only microscopic traces of hair almost two inches in width where my center part had been just seconds ago. He then positioned the clippers off to each side of the bare center strip and widened the hairless area to almost four inches across. Looking into the mirror again I now saw a wide center strip just inside my front hairline and leaving on each side a line of quarter inch hair about an inch wide. I now understood what was meant by a landing strip and I was able to see the uneven pattern of hair forming a crescent or horseshoe image. He turned the clippers off one more time to place a guard on them that would reduce the quarter inch length to my aunt’s mandated one eighth inch maximum length. He used two passes to achieve the length starting at the center of my forehead and going in each direction to the crown area just as he did when he removed my bangs.

By this point I was too wore out to cry or almost even care. I was numb. All I could do was watch this travesty finish itself out while I was in a near state of catatonia. Now Mr. Reid flicked on a different set of clippers, with a much lower humming sound. I remembered the closer cutting edging trimmer from years ago being used on my neck and around my ears. With deliberate skill, he moved the trimmer around the crescent to form an even line from the outside portion of the `shoe’ and using his barber comb to make a blend of hair from the one eighth length to just the nearly hairless skin. He then repeated this on the inside line of the `shoe’ blending around the area where my scalp curved from the sides to the top. When he flicked the trimmer off, the cutting of my hair was done as he had carved out a very short, thin but pronounced horseshoe crescent. It took less than a microsecond for me to hate it and I didn’t feel to swell (did I just use the word `swell’?) about mom, Aunt Kate or the world in general at that moment either.

He undid the cape and lifted it so all the hair fell to my feet and to the floor and foot rest base. He then let the cape drop back down loosely covering my shoulders. The tissue strip was removed and then I felt a new sensation as a hot moist towel was wrapped around my head for several minutes. By this point Aunt Kate had taken on a new manner in her look and tone with a gentle smile and saying “Well John Paul, you are so handsome now (had she been toking while I wasn’t looking?). Once Sam shaves you clean, you’ll be more so and will fit right in with Uncle Bob and Cousin James. I’m very proud of you acting like a young man and not a little child. Nobody will ever mistake you for a girl now.” Surly not. I should have just had `dork’ tattooed across my forehead.

I was too drained to say anything but “Yes ma’am Aunt Kate”.

A moment later the hot moist towel was removed and before Mr. Reid could toss it into the bin with other used towels, Aunt Kate retrieved it. Then in a most unexpected and tender manner she took the towel and proceeded to remove the hair that hat entangled itself in between my toes and flip-flops. Once done she patted my foot and smiled and said in a loving tone, “John Paul, I know we’ve had a rough day, but I am so happy to have you stay with me and be part of the family. You don’t know how much we all missed you the last few years. Your uncle and I are looking forward to getting to know you all over again.” What just happened? The old biddy just morphed back into the old Aunt Kate that I remembered from my earlier childhood! Again I just answered with “yes ma’am”.

While Aunt Kate was cleaning my feet, Mr. Reid placed another towel around my shoulders and tried to tuck it in as best he could around my tank top. Another smaller towel rested over my shoulder from front to back. He then went to his hot lather machine and dispensed a large amount of shaving foam. I remembered from my earlier haircuts having shaving cream spread around the hairline at my ears and around my neck. This time the warm lather started higher up at my crown and was spread downward to my nape and neck. Then he covered the area around my temples and down the sides of my head and around my ears. I almost smiled when I saw my reflection. I looked like my head had been covered in white icing or a meringue with the middle scraped away.

To my side I heard a scraping sound and found it coming from the infamous `razor strap’ my aunt had threatened me with not so long ago. Mr. Reid had a shinny straight razor and was stropping it to its ultimate sharpness. He then leaned into my right ear and said “John I need you to stay really still and not budge an inch while I shave you. This razor is very sharp and the last thing I want is to cut or nick you. Okay?”

I said “Yes sir, Mr. Reid.” He responded with “Good boy! We’re almost done young man.”

Aunt Kate seemed to focus in on everything I said to Mr. Reid, as if to make sure I was addressing him with the utmost respect. By this time every
`Mr. Reid’ or `Yes sir’ seemed to bring a pleasant smile to her face that I remembered from several years before. I wondered where that smile had been the last two days.

The freshly honed straight razor was positioned at my right temple next to where the skin started to give way and blend to the one eighth length of hair. A short and deliberate stroke left a noticeable patch of my scalp showing nothing but skin. Each perfectly aligned short stroke of the razor revealed more and more skin as the lather disappeared onto the towel taking almost all the micro-stubble with it.

While the shaving was a longer than I had expected process, Mr. Reid had soon shaved around my right ear and then starting from the crown down to my nape. Once the right ear had been cleared of any foam or trace of my one time long black curls, the ear seemed to stick out rather noticeably. I remembered Mary Elizabeth’s ears sticking out after mom sheared her and then had her clipped at the beauty salon. It seems as though my ear was sticking out way more than hers ever did (although it really didn’t).

Before long the barber, had come around to the left side and repeated the process that he followed on my right side. While I examined my denuded back and sides in the mirror and took note of now two large protruding ears, I heard the sound of the lather machine and felt another dollop of warm lather land on the top of my head. Mr. Reid took care to spread this lather around with his fingers instead of his palm, making sure that the lather came right next to the inner boundary of my crescent horseshoe. He then took great care with the razor and from crown to one eighth fringe he left a smooth layer of skin. After about a half dozen strokes I now had a `clean landing strip’. Mr. Reid finished with the straight razor by gliding it along the inner boundary of the shoe. He wiped my entire head with a damp towel and then rubbed his palms over my scalp feeling for any patches that may have been missed. He then said to Aunt Kate “You know John Paul had some really thick and coarse hair. I think I’ll need to go over it once more with a safety razor and this time I’ll go against the grain. That should have him looking and feeling really clean and smooth.” Aunt Kate said “Go for it Sam. I’m already in love with his new look and style.” I thought to myself `Lady if you’re so in love with it, let’s trade places and give you a high-tight horseshoe cut. Then tell me how much you are in love with it.’ I was wise enough and careful enough to keep my thoughts to myself.

The back, sides and top were lathered once more and he used a twin sided safety razor, just like the one my dad used when he shaved his face, to go over my scalp. This time he took longer strokes moving upward on the back and sides and then went from fringe to crown going against the grain of my hair growth pattern. Several minutes later it was finished. He ran his hands over my head and felt total smoothness except for where the horseshoe was. Aunt Kate made like I was some half-assed crystal ball and rubbed both her hands around my head saying “Sam thank you so much for ridding us of a little girl and returning a young man to us. John Paul this is very sharp looking I can’t wait for your uncle to see the new you.” She then actually gave me a hug and a kiss on my cheek!

Before being allowed out of the barber’s chair, Sam took a brush and dusted a sweet smelling powder on my head and then he took some nice smelling oil and rubbed it into my scalp so that it now had a shine to it, after an initial sting, the oil felt good and cool. He then took a moment to tell Aunt Kate, that because of my hairs extreme darkness and thickness, he didn’t think I would be able to go more than a day or two at most without needing to be re-shaved. He said “I know Bob will make sure John Paul stays clean and smooth and the horseshoe should be okay for two weeks before needing trimmed. Now if you want to let him grow the fringe out to a quarter like Bob and James, you could even let him skip the next time they come in.”
Aunt Kate said “Oh no Sam. I like the way this looks and we are going to keep it at an eighth from now on. At first I wanted to send a message, but I just think he is just adorable. We’ll see how he looks in the morning before time for Sunday school and church. If the roots are showing very much shadow, I’ll just have Bob shave him down in the morning and the evening if need be. That’s what Bob does with his beard if he has to go somewhere important after work and when he does his Reserve duty. Right now I just want to concentrate on getting him outside so his pasty white skin and scalp can get a good tan. I want him looking really sharp, tanned and neat when I have pictures made to send to his mother and grandmother in a couple of weeks. Needless to say, I want him nice and dark when school starts so he’ll fit in with all the other kids.”

Sam said that would be fine and to be sure to keep me covered in sun lotion so my skin and scalp doesn’t burn. Aunt Kate said she had forgotten all about sun lotion when we were at K-mart. Then she said “Sam, so you can get to Tracy’s softball game on time, can I leave John Paul here while I run to get lotion? That way he can sweep up his mess and trash it, while you do whatever else you need to do to close up. I’ll only be five or ten minutes. Oh and I don’t want to forget to pay you. The cut was five but will you please take ten?”

Adding insult to injury, now I was expected to sweep up and throw in the trash my own curls after being sheared and then shaved away. Mr. Reid said “Kate that’s fine. He can sweep up while I get the towels and capes from today out of the washer and toss `em in the dryer and since he is helping out and this is his first time, the haircut is on the house. I won’t take no for an answer. You know Kate, I think you’re going to find out you’ve got a really special young man here. You may not want to let him go when his year is up.”

My aunt said, “Sam the whole family knew he had special qualities, we just needed to get him away from other influences and work to bring out those qualities. His dress and appearance is just a start.”

I started to sweep up my gone for good hair and once more fought back tears. Mr. Reid observed and said, “John it will take a little time, but you will get used to your new haircut. I’m betting that before school starts, you’ll look back and wonder `why did I even have that much hair’. The really sad thing is throwing away all those long natural curls in the trash. I know Tracy would kill to have them so she doesn’t have to sit for hours when she gets her hair permed. She loves her curls but hates what she has to go through to get them.” I thought to myself, `Yeah, I loved my curls too.’ While Mr. Reid was busy with towels or something, I picked up a small fifteen inch lock or two of my curls and tied them together with a rubber band that I saw lying on his counter. At least I had a small memento of who I was and desperately wanted to still be. My navy blue shorts at least had pocket on them even if they didn’t have belt loops. Without thinking I stuffed the lock of hair in my pocket.

Aunt Kate was back in less than ten minutes Cousin Anna and sun tan lotion. As we were on our way home, she heard a sound from my gut that wasn’t butterflies but hunger pangs. She said, “Oh my John Paul, I’ve been so busy getting you squared away, that I forgot all about dinner for us. I’m sure Bob fixed something for himself. We don’t do fast food and junk like that, but we can make an exception and pick up a burger and fries for you to eat on the way home. Anna might be old enough to eat one of those kids’ meals. You’ll have a big breakfast when you rise and shine in the morning. As soon as I get you home I’ll get you bathed and then Uncle Bob can take a look at the new you. Since its Sunday school tomorrow morning it’s in bed and lights out at 8:30 for you. Don’t say anything, I know you think it’s terrible, but you will get used to it. Trust me you don’t want to make a fuss about bed time in fr
ont of your Uncle. He will make you wish you were never born.” I said to myself `Too late, I’m already there.’

I was allowed to get a regular burger and small fries at the drive thru the only thing that got vetoed by Aunt Kate was the Coke that I asked for. I could choose milk or iced tea. She said soda was something I would learn to live without.
When we got home, Uncle Bob took a look at me and gave me a bear hug. Then he took his hand and started to rub it over my head. He said, “John Paul you look so much better. When you came in her today, I thought we were gonna have to put you in with Sarah and Anna and get you some pretty pink dresses with laces and ruffles and some ribbon’s and bow’s for that hairdo of yours. Now you look like a proper young man. Pretty soon the girls are gonna be linin’ up to be with you.” Was he serious? I looked like a freak, a Class A-1 Dork. I know this was a few years before Jim Jones and the People’s Temple, but had Uncle Bob been nipping at the proverbial Kool-Aid?

No sooner had Uncle Bob finished gushing over me, when Aunt Kate took me by the hand and led me to the bathroom. She said, “It’s well after seven. You need to get your nightly bath out of the way and get ready for bed. When I saw the tub I asked “Aunt Kate, where is the shower?” She said “The only shower is in our master bathroom. It’s off limits to children. Do I need to run your bath for you or can you handle it?”

Dejected, I said, “Yes ma’am, I can handle it.” I had been in the tub for less than five minutes when the bathroom door popped open and in came Aunt Kate with a naked little Anna. I screamed “Aunt Kate! I’m naked!” She gave me that look and I corrected really quick and said while trying to cover my manhood “Um I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. You surprised me. But Aunt Kate ma’am, please I’m naked here.”

She totally ignored me and said, “John Paul you’ve got nothing I haven’t already seen. Good Lord, I used to change your diapers. Now help Anna get cleaned up and I’ll bring you your PJ’s and your indoor flip-flops. A minute later here she came with a pair of light blue (okay baby blue) shortie PJs and my bright yellow flip-flops. She took me by my left arm and raised me right up out of the tub, leaving Anna to splash away. Acting as if I was Anna’s age, Aunt Kate took a towel and started to dry me off and ran her hand over my freshly cut and shaved head. She just smiled and said, “Goodness gracious you are so cute now.” She then held out my PJ bottom’s for me to step into. I said, “Aunt Kate, you forgot my underpants.” She looked at me like I was stupid, and said, “John Paul we don’t wear underpants to bed. Those are for our day time clothes. Now step in right leg first now left” I followed her instructions and felt weird as she pulled the bottoms up and adjusted the snap at the waist the hem on the shortie pajamas felt like they came all the way up my thigh. I thought that there wasn’t enough leg on them to cover up anything. God I missed my boxers. Then she put the short sleeved v-neck top on me and buttoned it up. All that was left was to slip into my new bright banana yellow flip-flops.

This was part of my nightly ritual for the time I lived in SC; thank God Aunt Kate did not make part of the ritual, drying off and putting into PJs her utterly broken and defeated thirteen year old nephew. While privacy was not a major concern by Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob as far as extending that right to children go, it did get better and thank God Uncle Bob did announce himself before entering Cousin Sarah’s room at night and he did knock on the bathroom door before entering, leaving just enough time for Sarah to announce herself if she were in the bathroom. I think the only reason Aunt Kate burst in during those first few weeks and every now and then thereafter, was to teach me that I was an absolute subordinate along with her children when it came to a parent-child relationship. The big city boy was quickly brought down a peg or two.
After she got Anna out of the tub, dried off, diapered and then dropped a kiddy nightgown over her, she marched us to the TV room. She said it’s a half hour before bed time. If you want you can watch some TV for a bit or go on to bed and read. Lights out in thirty.” Nothing was on TV that was any good. That was back when we only had three network channels and if you were lucky PBS (I thought we were really big time in Detroit because we also got the CBC channel from Windsor, Ontario being that Canada was just across the river and a quick bridge or tunnel ride away). I pulled a random book off the shelf and went to lie down. I felt so weird. No hair between the pillow and my head, no undies between the PJs and me that were so short they felt like they were riding up the crack of my ass. Looking out the window it was still broad daylight! I couldn’t believe I was being put to bed when other kids were still out playing or getting ready for a night of TV, games, running around or going on dates. To this day I blame my love of satellite TV, Nick at Nite and TV Land to the fact that during my teenage years, I missed almost all of the networks primetime programs because I was put to bed while the rest of the world watched `Happy Days’ and the like. After a few weeks I discovered that TV was something you could live without, along with soft drinks, sugary snack foods, boxer shorts and yes even hair (okay it took several months on the boxers and hair). When you are woke up at 5:00 AM every morning, rain or shine 24/7 to start your day and chores, going to bed at 8:30 PM didn’t feel so bad after the first week or two and seeing daylight coming through your bedroom window almost felt normal even though you were tucked away in bed.

Anyway, I looked at the book that I pulled and was surprised that it was about Pearl Harbor. It held my interest because dad was in the Navy during WWII flying rescue and reconnaissance airplanes in the Pacific. While diving into the first couple of chapters, almost instinctively or out of warped reflex my free hand came up to my head and was feeling the smoothness and then the start of the tiny, tiny bristles that made my horseshoe fringe. I couldn’t take my hand away from my head and then the unthinkable happened. I was rubbing the landing strip and a smile crept across my face. I had to acknowledge that although the haircut looked awful and I hated it, it felt so damn good. I wonder looking back now if the iced tea that I had with my burger and fries that night didn’t have a little of Uncle Bob’s and Reverend Jim’s Kool-Aid in it.

In no time at all, Aunt Kate walked in to my bedroom to say goodnight. “Alright John Paul, time to turn out the light and call it a night.” Before coming over to the bottom bunk, she went over to the dresser to show me and tell me that from now on, we fold the clothes we wore that day and they are to be wore in the morning for chores before being deposited in the laundry bag and then change into our next day’s clothes, that she picks out for us each night and places on top of the dresser. While folding my navy blue shorts, Aunt Kate felt something in the pocket. Without asking, she pulled out my lock of hair that I had saved. My aunt looked at me like `what am I going to do with you’ then she said “John Paul Wilson! If this doesn’t beat everything. You don’t need such nonsense as this to remind you of your past. All we want you to do is look to your future and this isn’t part of your future or your life anymore (she said while swinging it from side to side like a pendulum). Tomorrow morning it will join the rest of your old things at the county land fill.” That was the last time I ever saw my hair long enough to form spiraling ringlets. Aunt Kate didn’t act mad or like she was going to punish me for the lock of hair, she just came over to the bed and took the book out of my hand. Then she maneuvered my legs up slightly and pulled the light blanket and sheet down and then back up to cover me. She made sure to tuck the sheet in and said “There you go. All snug as a bug.” I started to say something and she just put
her index finger to my lips. She continued “Shush. Just listen. I know right now you must hate me something terrible; it has to be hard to make such big adjustments in so little time. But I want you to know I am very proud of you. You’ve dealt with your clothes and haircut like a real man, well except for this (she held up my lock once more). You may not believe me, but I’m already dreading the day when you will go home to West Virginia in about a year. I think you are going to love your new school and all of the new friends you are bound to make. Sarah and James can’t wait to get back from church camp to see you. I’m very sorry about having to smack you today and give you that paddling. I hope there will be very few of those while you are here. You don’t think it, but I hate giving them even more than you hate getting them. I’m going to make you a promise, and I think you know I keep my promises, for as long as you are under my legal custody, I’m not going to be your Aunt Kate and Bob isn’t going to be your uncle. We are going to be your parents. We are going to treat you just like you are our child, because as far as we are concerned you are our child. We want you to think of us the same way, if you can. We will not force you to call us mom or dad, but we want you to come to us with any problems or questions just like you would if we were your real mom or dad. Now get to sleep five o’clock gets here very early. Bob and I love you so much, my handsome young man.” Before leaving and cutting out the light, she bent forward and kissed my forehead (something that would become a nightly ritual as she did this when saying `good night’ to each of her children).

I still remember that conversation on that first night in South Carolina just like it was yesterday. I did hate Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob for what they had forced upon me and taken away from me. I just wanted to get to hell out of there and be back with dad, my Grandma and of course my sister Mary Elizabeth. I also hated my mom for letting it happen and casting me off to be forgotten and kept away from dad and Grandma and my sister. With age, you gain perspective. When I was older I understood that mom was unable to take care of me with her illness and she did what she thought was best. I still don’t agree with what she did and I never felt the same way about her after the divorce became final. The vengefulness of her actions and using me to get back at dad were and still are unforgivable, but I do understand her reasoning for sending me to South Carolina.
The first morning in SC was an early one 5:00 AM on the dot. A few minutes later Uncle Bob came in the bedroom and said, “Come on son John. We got to get movin’. It had been less than twelve hours since my hair and been cut off and most of my head shaved clean. When I made my way to the bathroom I looked in the mirror and saw that everything that had happened had not been just a bad dream. I also noticed that the sides and top of my head were noticeably darker than they had been when I left Sam’s barbershop. Once more my heart sank because I knew I would face being shaved twice a day in all likelihood. Sure enough, Uncle Bob saw my five o’clock shadow (literally five o’clock AM shadow) and told me to come to his and my aunt’s master bathroom. I came in still in my PJs and was told to take my PJ top off and sit on the seat of Aunt Kate’s vanity set. Sitting on the bathroom sink, were Uncle Bob’s safety razor, a small metal box with double edge blades and a can of Barbasol shaving cream. Uncle Bob wet a hand towel with hot water and let it rest around and over my head. He held in place with a clothes pin. While my follicles were being opened and the micro stubble softened, Uncle Bob twisted the knob on the bottom of his safety razor opening up the top. He removed the old blade and took a new one from the metal box and dropped it into place, he then twisted the knob in the opposite direction to close the top tight. Once he did this he removed the hot towel and dropped it over my bare shoulder. Uncle Bob then shook the can of shaving cream and filled his hand with the white foam. He carefully spread the cream around my back and sides as well as the top landing strip. While applying the cream he made sure to almost massage in the cream to the opened pours and hair follicles. Like Mr. Reid, he admonished me to remain very still. Then unlike Mr. Reid he placed his razor alongside my right ear about even with my bottom lobe. He then used a long and smooth stroke going up the side of my head and stopping where the horseshoe appeared. He moved the razor about half a width over and proceeded up again. After carefully shaving around my right ear, he moved to my neck and nape. He carefully shaved over the occipital ridge at the back of my head and then to the crown area. He continued this action until he had moved around to my left side and shaved that entire area. Once done he moved to the landing strip area and placed the razor close to my forehead, at the inside part of the horseshoe fringe. Then he moved the razor back until it met the shaved area at the crown. After three strokes, he moved to shave the inside area that outlined the inner part of the shoe. Once the major portions of my scalp had been shaved, he used a finger and rubbed in more shaving foam around the contour of my crescent horseshoe both on the outside and inside perimeter. Uncle Bob finished by running the safety razor along the inside and outside line of the horseshoe. He put the razor down and ran his hands over the top and back and sides of my head, satisfied that he had not missed any area. When I was able to raise my head and look in my aunt’s vanity mirror, I noticed that my scalp was not as dark as before and that it looked better than with the shadow. Uncle Bob then squeezed a small amount of scented baby oil in his hand and rubbed it all around and into my scalp. He then took a towel (cheesecloth maybe?) like the one you use on cars when you wax them and buffed my head as if it was a shoe being polished. So help me God, when he was done my head shined! I was now resigned to my fate of being shaved twice a day and surprisingly I was not upset. Uncle Bob said, “There you go son, all done. Now go and get out of the PJs and into the outfit you had last night and see what you can do to help your aunt.” I said “Yes sir, Uncle Bob”. Then I started to walk away as he prepared to use a different but similar safety razor to shave his beard. After a few steps I stopped turned around and said, “Uncle Bob. thank you for taking care of this.” Before I realized it, I had stepped up to him and gave him a hug. He patted me on the back and said, “Its okay that’s what I’m here for son. Now go and help your aunt, she’s got some chores for you”. I couldn’t believe what I had just done and said.

Most of that summer was spent outdoors. The rule of the house was after breakfast and chores children vacated the house for pursuits in the sun and fresh air, weather permitting. Many times I was sent out topless until time for lunch and the appearance of the mid day sun, only then did I get a tank top to put on and ward off the worst of the sun’s rays. The first few weeks or so had me very s.

After about three weeks, of daily sun light on my scalp and body, the pasty skin began to turn to a light tan. By the middle of summer I sported a moderate light brown skinned tan. When school started the first week of September, I had a very brown tan over most of my body and a completely brown scalp. During the summer I noticed that besides me and my Cousin Jimmy, almost all boys had very short haircuts, though ours was still an extreme. It turns out that North Augusta, SC was on the Georgia border with Augusta, GA and it was a military town for the most part back then
(The Masters Golf Tournament also found Augusta as its home. It also was the birthplace of James Brown, my godfather of soul music). Fort Gordon was (and still is) located there along with a large VA hospital. Even in North Augusta, quite a few military families lived nearby and it seems that the military father’s liked having their young son’s sporting the same or similar short haircuts. Even as a Marine Reservist, Uncle Bob did much of his reserve duty at Fort Gordon (an Army base and it turns out a hub for military electronics technology). We were an anomaly from the rest of mid 70s hair and clothing styles as compared to the rest of society. Considering the heat, it was wise for us boys to have short hair. I did actually feel sorry for Cousin Sarah, as she and most girls in 1974 South Carolina had long hair. They tended to range from chin length bobs (only with my new haircut and style could you consider a chin length bob as long, hell even the short back and sides haircuts from my early childhood felt long with this new cut) to hair down to the waist. Sarah’s hair hung down midway between her shoulders and elbows. It had to be unbearable. One thing I did manage to side step (only because of sign-up deadlines) was the organized sports activities during the summer. There was a girls softball league that Sarah was required to participate in (She was in the same league as Tracy Reid but on an opposing team. I made any excuse I could to go to Sarah’s games especially if her team was playing Tracy’s.). Jimmy had Little League baseball and a basketball league. Jimmy was the catcher on our local Little League team. I still got my exercise by walking, riding bikes and swimming. At the old age of thirteen I also climbed my first tree. Midway through the summer, I ran into a couple of guys who were in a Boy Scout troop. I attended a meeting or two and was very happy that Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob agreed to let me join. Once I was a uniformed Tenderfoot I found most of my activities Scout related. There was plenty of outdoor fun in the sun activities to make Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob happy. However, there were also many activities that required study and brain power as well to make me a happy camper (pun intended). When I discovered all the different merit badges that there were, I was constantly exploring new worlds, ideas and interests. Before I left the Boy Scouts five years later due to age restrictions, I had earned the highest honor of Eagle Scout and had earned over half the 100+ badges that were available. While in South Carolina, I earned the traditional outdoor badges in camping, cooking, first aid, hiking and swimming as well as some of the more difficult badges to most scouts’ like atomic energy, astronomy, space exploration, and electronics. The atomic energy and electronics badges gave me a real opportunity to bond with my Uncle Bob, as he was after all an electronics specialist at the nuclear plant down the road.

Once school started, we (Sarah, Jimmy and me) required to find a sports activity and go out (try out) for the school team if we could make it. I made second string football (they must have been really hard up), Jimmy was on his grade schools basketball team and Sarah found time for track and field as well as band. She desperately wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad as she had the looks and talent. Cheerleading was vetoed by Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob because of the short skirts and revealing uniforms.

After school started, all the kids still wore shorts and tees to class into October because of the heat (unheard of in my Detroit elementary school). Aunt Kate was adamant that I would not have anything but shorts until time for longer trousers well in to the fall. She did let me start to wear button up sports shirts and regular tee’s as well soon after school started. I was able to get my sneakers back, for school activities and gym class, but no high-tops or colors. I had the standard white low cut Converse sneaker and was only permitted to wear socks during gym (a requirement) and during other sports activities. Along with the sneakers, Aunt Kate also bought me a pair of brown Bass penny loafers that I could wear in place of my sandals, still with no socks. Sarah and Jimmy had the same penny loafers and it was funny watching the three of us walk to our bus stop wearing shorts and the same style penny loafers (in Sarah’s case a skirt and penny loafers). When late fall arrived and I was able to get my first pair of trousers, they weren’t flared or bell bottoms. They turned out to be my first ever pair of denim jeans with a narrow straight leg. I had been in shorts for so long now that having my legs covered by heavy denim was uncomfortable. Sarah had teased me that if I had back all of my long girly curls, I could borrow some of her skirts or dresses and keep my legs exposed. She was not permitted to wear any jeans or slacks because they were un-lady like and went against scripture (she did like her denim skirts and jumpers though). Her only exception was sweats during gym or sports events. Soon I had a couple of pairs of Levi’s and three or four casual trousers and chino like slacks. I had very few rayon’s or any other `on’s. In the South cotton was and still is king!

It was unbelievable that by Thanksgiving time, I was no longer interested in my old clothes and GULP. my old hair (Mr. Reid was clairvoyant or maybe just wise beyond his 40ish something years). While I never fell in love with the look of a micro short horseshoe cut, I loved the feel of it. I would have preferred to have the horseshoe shaved off as well and been completely bald and smooth; but, the schools had rules that did not allow for completely shaved heads. Jimmy’s and my haircuts, along with a few other military kids pushed the limits of school hair grooming standards. I started to look forward to the clipping and freshening up of my horseshoe by Mr. Reid and his straight razor shave every two weeks. I also couldn’t wait for my morning shadow eliminating shave by Uncle Bob in addition to my second shave in the evenings before bedtime. Now that my scalp was tanned, the shadowy image wasn’t as noticeable and Uncle Bob offered to eliminate the evening shaving. I couldn’t believe it when I asked him to please continue with the twice daily shaving because I had grown to like the look and feel of it so much. When Uncle Bob was gone for weekend training with the Marine Reserves once a month, I found myself walking the three miles on Friday and Saturday to Sam’s Barbershop so he could keep my haircut neat, clean and smooth. Aunt Kate would not do the honors of shaving me because she was afraid she would cut me. Jimmy was lucky. His and Sarah’s hair was almost light blonde (like Uncle Bob). So Jimmy’s horseshoe cut didn’t leave a shadow, just like his dad. His back, sides and landing strip was shaved clean only twice a week. I knew that I had reached a major turning point, when if I had had the choice to keep the horseshoe style haircut whose look I hated or go back to my head of curls, I would have without a second thought chose the horseshoe high and tight haircut (I don’t know what happened to me. Go figure).
I also got used to going to sleep when it was still daylight outside and wearing PJs and PJs only to bed. When it got cool on some October nights, I then had some long PJs and found I was not missing my butt crack high riding shorties.
It was also in the late fall around the end of November that when sitting at the dinner table I would sometimes slip when addressing Aunt Kate or Uncle Bob by calling them mom or dad. Nothing was said when I would correct myself; but, they were happy because they knew it was a subconscious error and that it was coming from the heart. I worked hard to make myself call them aunt and uncle at this point, because of a split loyalty to my real mother and father. They knew I felt like their son and they my parents and they were happy with that. I also liked living in a family structure where there was no constant fighting, arguing or hitting. Virtually all hitting was by my mother directed tow
ards my dad. To this day, I still don’t know why he stayed in an unhappy and violent marriage as long as he did. My dad wasn’t perfect though, because of the unhappiness, he did look for intimacy elsewhere and found someone else that he could love and be loved by. What really hurt was she had children of her own and more and more he took an interest in them at the expense of my sister and me. I also marvel at how during the worst of times my dad would put up with my mom’s violent outbursts without ever raising a hand back at her. Many times he would turn red as a beat and have his fists clinched tight as he managed to restrain his temper and take my mother’s hits. Looking back, what I think I should have done, was reveal these actions to Judge Fordham so that my mother would have been forced to get the help she needed in areas not related to the cancer that she battled. I guess I was selfish and didn’t want to take a chance that if my father got custody, I would have to start going to a new school and area that I didn’t feel safe in. Hindsight might be 20/20, but it is also an unmitigated bitch. I also don’t have a very high opinion of the what if’s and woulda, coulda, shoulda be’s.

While I felt safe and secure in my SC home and school, I never forgot why I was there. By the time school started, mom was deep into her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She was sick all the time. There was one occasion when I was being summoned back to Michigan because the doctors’ didn’t think mom would last more than a few days. The day before I was being taken to Atlanta to get a flight to Detroit, mom rebounded and fought back, she was adamant that I stay in SC and in school. I found out years later that it was mostly because she didn’t want me to see her thin, frail and bald. She didn’t want that to be the last image I had of her (Mary Elizabeth also told me several years later that if mom had passed away during her cancer battle, she wanted a closed casket so no one, meaning me, would see her after having submitted to the chemo and treatments that left her a shell of who she had been). It was also during that scare that mom made another decision concerning me. Mom had asked and Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob agreed that if she did pass away, they take over as my sole permanent legal guardian’s and then proceed with a formal adoption petition because my dad had been so hurt by the divorce and what happened with the custody battle, that he pursued a job as a currier for the State Department (and remarried into a new family) and asked to be based in our Embassy in Spain; this way my Grandma would be able to be with her older brother who was very old and sickly. Before leaving dad’s attorney filed a petition with the Court relinquishing all parental rights and ties with me. My dad spent six years living in Spain (It killed me that he took his new family with him. I would not have minded living abroad for a few years, knowing that I knew how to get back home if he had decided otherwise.). He came home when he brought my Grandma back to the US to be with the Grandpa that I never knew as he died before I or Mary Elizabeth had been born. While in Spain with her brother my Grandma passed away in 1980.

By Christmas 1974 John Paul Wilson had come into his own. I had all but forgotten, being a big city, long haired boy with flashy clothes. I did not know who that person was anymore. The only two life changes that I had regrets over was not being Juan Pablo Butini and not having seen my mom and sister in over seven months. In 1981 (at the age of nineteen) I petitioned the Court for yet another legal name change. Once my situation had been explained, the judge granted the change of my name back to Juan Pablo Butini. I would have still acclimated to all the same changes that John Paul did. The only change I failed to make was to forget my heritage and love of my Spanish culture alongside my American culture. The second regret was also solved. A week before Christmas Day, school let out for a two week winter break. The day after school was out; I was given an early Christmas present. The thin gift was wrapped in festive paper and bow. I reluctantly opened it and then became joyful and saddened at the same time. It was a round trip airline ticket to Detroit bought by my aunt and uncle (mostly). My mom and sister chipped in. I looked forward to being back in Motown and seeing my mom and Mary Elizabeth. At the same time I didn’t want to be away from my South Carolina family at Christmas. That problem was also solved. At dinner time on the 19th, my family knew I didn’t want to miss my Christmas with then. Right at the dinner table, they took a vote and by a 4 to 0 outcome (now three year old Anna abstained), their Christmas was going to be celebrated on Dec. 31. I begged them to not put off their Christmas because of me and my aunt and uncle said that’s what they would do for any son of theirs. Sarah and Jimmy said it wouldn’t be Christmas without their `brother’.

Aunt Kate had spoken with my sister and mom and told them how much the sickness had worn on me and how I desperately needed to see them. They seemed to overlook the fact that my mom’s battle with cancer was also effecting me too. My mom decided to put her vanity aside and have me come and visit for ten days of my two week vacation. I then realized how much Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob were trying to make my happy. All I could do was give them a hug at the same time, while tears fell from my face and I said, “Thanks mom and dad, thank you so much.” Later that evening, at the dinner table, my aunt, uncle and my two older cousins, talked to me and reinforced how much I was a member of their family. I was no longer thought of as a nephew or as Cousin John. All four of them told me that as far as they were concerned, I was another son and another brother. Aunt Kate added that she knew I was self conscience about slipping up and sometimes calling her and my uncle `mom’ or `dad’. She said that if that was how I felt then I should do so. I told them that I thought it would be unfair and hurt my Cousins Sarah and Jimmy (I didn’t mention the conflict of emotion about my real mom and dad). They both told me that it would make them happy, as that would show them as well, that I thought of them not as cousins, but as brother and sister. Now we would all be calling them mom and dad.

The day before my flight, mom took me to Augusta to do some shopping. While there, she selected several pairs of heavy cotton and corduroy trousers for me to wear in Michigan along with some nice button up long sleeve shirts and two or three pull over sweaters. We then went to a shoe store and she bought me a pair of dress boots that would keep the snow off of me, several pair of long heavy socks and a black pair of Bass penny loafers to go with my brown ones. While in the shoe store, she saw me deeply admiring a pair of two-toned brown and blue platforms. She took me by the hand and moved on, in a loving but teasing tone she said, “I don’t know what to do with you. I guess old habits die hard.” I teased back by saying “You can take the boy out of the big city and Motown; but, you can’t take the big city and Motown out of the boy” (the Motown part was true anyway). I then said, “Aunt Kate. uh mom, I don’t have a coat or winter jacket. Do you think Uncle Bob would have something with his Marine gear I could borrow?” She didn’t say anything but had a smile on her face. While driving around she started to talk about sports, just out of the blue. She said, “You know when we took you kids to Atlanta this past summer, you didn’t really enjoy the Braves game did you?” I said, “I’m sorry, but not really. I’m still a Tiger’s fan. But, I did like watching Hank Aaron play in his last season.” I don’t know how she did it, it had to have been planed way ahead of time, but she pulled up to a sporting goods store and we went in. She told me to tell the sales clerk who I was and then she came back with something in a zip up suit or coat bag. My aunt suggested that I try it on and I just about died! It was an authentic Detroit Tiger’s jacket
, just like the ones the players wore in late fall and early spring. It also had `John Paul’ stitched on the front in a fancy script just like the real players. Except for my name stitched on it, it looked just like the replica jacket that had been sent to the county dump the first day I arrived in SC. This one was way better, more insulated and more expensive. I would have no problem staying warm when I got to Michigan. While stopping at a couple of more places so I could pick up some gifts for mom, Mary Elizabeth and her husband Brian, Aunt Kate told me that the Tiger’s jacket was from the family and that Sarah and Jimmy had chipped in a `big chunk’ of their saved up allowances. She then said, “John, you know since you came to be with us, your Uncle and I have made some mistakes and we are sorry. While you were adjusting to our ways and us, we forgot that we would have to adjust too. I don’t regret anything we did, but throwing out your old Tiger jacket was just mean. We shouldn’t have done it and we are sorry.” I said, “It’s okay mom, you did what you thought was right, I guess”. I then smiled at her and said, “I wish you had felt the same way about my curls, fuzzy fedora and platforms.” She grinned and said, “Very funny mister! I got news for you, I’ve already got two daughters and I wasn’t in the market for a third. So those curls, platforms and that hat were toast, the minute I laid eyes on them at the Ashland bus station.” I looked back at her and said three words, “That’s cool mom.”

From that day forward, in my mind and in my heart Aunt Kate, Uncle Bob, and Cousins Sarah, James and Anna ceased to exist. They were openly Mom, Dad, and Sisters Sarah and Anna and Brother Jimmy. Aside from visiting my mom and Mary Elizabeth, I couldn’t think of anyplace else I would ever want to be.

School let out for Christmas break on Dec. 19 and on Dec. 21 I was on a flight from Atlanta to Detroit. I made sure to visit Mr. Reid at his barbershop on the 20th to have my `shoe trimmed down to an eighth after only a week and a half and to take advantage of his double shave. By this time my scalp had darkened and tanned to the point that my shadow was not as noticeable. To my regret, Dad had discontinued the second evening shaving for the most part, unless I had something really special planed and wanted to look my best. The straight razor feeling was the best and I was a true convert. I didn’t care if I ever had hair again so long as I could enjoy the feel of the straight razor gliding down and over my scalp. The next day I arrived in Detroit where Mary Elizabeth and Brian were waiting. My sister couldn’t believe I was the same kid who stepped on that bus in May. I was tan (dark tanned at that), I was wearing nice slacks and a button up with my new black penny loafers and of course my hair was gone. She teased me about my transformation from hip Motown groupie to conservative southern boy. I teased back by saying, “Yeah, see what happens when you fall asleep chewing gum in the South.” Mary Elizabeth tensed up and shot me a look that could kill. I had actually thought about confessing to putting the gum in her hair years ago, since I had a haircut way more brutal than she ever had and would be keeping it for as long as I stayed with our aunt and uncle. I knew if I did confess, I would be dead before we got to the next stop light. To this day it’s a secret that is still safe.

We got home and mom was in a hospital bed with Granny beside her. They both loved my haircut. I couldn’t get over how Mom looked. She was so pale, thin and fragile looking. It seemed like I could count every bone and joint in her body. She surprised me by having on a dark brown shag wig. She would not let me see her without it. I did everything I could to help her and to help Granny and Mary Elizabeth. I had a hard time not confronting Mom about the court orders and the name change. Granny was all for everything she did. Mary Elizabeth thought most of it was foolish and unfounded. She also refused (to my liking) to call me `John Paul’ I was always going to be `Juan Pablo’ to her (and to me too).

While most of my visit was staying with Mom, Mary Elizabeth took one day of my vacation to spend with me doing shopping and just running around. I insisted that that day we have breakfast at McDonalds and we get lunch at White Castle. White Castle’s didn’t exist in the Deep South and MickeyD’s (and all fast foods and cola’s basically) were banned for the most part by my South Carolina parents. We talked for hours and Mary Elizabeth wanted to know if I was okay and happy in SC. She found out about Mom’s plan to have Aunt Kate and Uncle Bob take me and adopt me if Mom didn’t recover. She was ready to fight that and sue to have me come back to Michigan if I wanted to. I had a bad feeling that she wasn’t telling me everything and I just felt deep down that mom wasn’t recovering the way she should. I was scared. I told her that the hardest thing for me was not being close to her and mom; but, I didn’t think I could ask for her to disrupt her whole life taking in a teenage brother. Brian and she needed to have a life and start a family. I mean it wasn’t like I was beat or abused by my SC family; although the first and so far only time I got punished by Kate and Uncle Bob, I thought I was going to die from `tag team’ beltings on my bare ass. The entire time I was in SC, I never ever snuck out of the house and tried to lie about it again. For a week my ass was as tanned as the rest of my body. That day out with my sister, she took me on another shopping spree and had me fitted in Detroit Tiger shirts, an authentic Al Kaline jersey, caps and even PJ’s (long ones). She wanted to get me several pairs of Tiger’s boxers but I had to explain that they were forbidden. She also set me up with more slacks and Levi’s as well as a half dozen sports shirts with a little `alligator’ sewn on to them. By this time I had about five days of growth on the back, sides and top of my head. Mary Elizabeth damn near died, when I went to a barbershop in Hudson’s Department Store and asked to have the stubble shaved clean. She couldn’t help shaking her head in disbelief in between laughing while I was having my head shaved smooth (around the horseshoe fringe). willingly! Aside from feeling better and looking better, having her watch was my private way of saying I was sorry for the gum hair massacre of ’69. One evening before leaving, Mary Elizabeth and Brian surprised me with a trip to see the Detroit Red Wings play the New York Rangers. Before the evening was over I also had an authentic Gordy Howe hockey jersey to take back `home’ to South Carolina.

A few days later, I was flying back to Atlanta this time with two suitcases instead of just the one I left with. I was concerned when we got home that mom and dad would decide to start tossing all of my new clothes and stuff into bags, headed for the county landfill. They liked the Izod Lacoste sports shirts and didn’t have any objections about my Tigers or Red Wings clothing. They didn’t care much for the ball caps or the boxer’s that Mary Elizabeth snuck in without my knowledge. At least they didn’t get thrown out (The boxers were confiscated by mom and the fly sewn up. When I got them back a few days later, I was told that I could wear them as outer shorts around the house, but nowhere else or they would be thrown out).
The next day Dec. 31, the family finally celebrated Christmas. It didn’t feel any different six days late. I found that they were not happy about the ball caps from my sister, because they had Tiger’s ball caps for me as gifts. Jimmy also had Braves caps under the tree. It seems that even my new family was loosening up if they were going to allow us to wear caps every now and then. The rule was no caps to school, church (duh!) or anywhere with the family.

The rest of the school year went by faster than I wanted. 1974 gave way to 1975 and the school year ended in May. I was sad, because I had made some great friends at my Junior High and in my scout troop. I was dreading the end of August when I would be sent bac
k to WV as my mother was scheduled to come back and start her new post cancer life. During the second week of August, I had come home from some scout activity to find Mr. Reid, Mom, Dad and our minister Rev. Crouse there. I thought nothing of it, as it was not unusual for them to get together. Before I could unlace and kick off my hiking boots, Mom came into the bedroom and said with a halting voice, “John would you come into the living room please, we need to have a word with you.”

I immediately thought `Oh my God. Mom!’ It only took a few steps to be in the living room when I saw everyone lock their eyes on me. Trying to be brave, I said while tears started to run down my face, “It’s Mother. What happened? Is. is she gone?” Mom said, “No John, Helen is alive. But the doctor’s have found more tumors. Right now she is in surgery having part of her liver removed and they also found a spot on one of her lungs. If. when she gets out of surgery she will have to start a new more massive dose of radiation and chemotherapy, at least a year, possibly more. If the spot on the lung is cancer, they will have to do another surgery to remove it once she is strong enough to handle it.”

I stuttered and stammered, “Mom, mother is alive right? I want to go to Michigan. I have to be with her. I can help take care of her.”

My surrogate mother said, “John we have already made reservations for you and me to fly to be with Helen. Mr. Reid and Reverend Crouse will take us to Atlanta. To catch our flight, we have to leave here within the hour. I’ve already packed a suitcase for you. I just need you to get showered and get some clean clothes on. So we can head out. Before we leave, Bob and the kids want to say goodbye to you.”

For the first time I showered in mom and dad’s bathroom and did it in record time. I only thought about my mother. Dad and the kids told me goodbye and that they loved me. Sarah was doing nothing but repeating prayers. Two hours later we were in Atlanta and ready to board a plane. Once we were in the air, I asked without thinking, “Mom, what do we do about my stuff. I’ll need to start school in Michigan if I stay with mother and Mary Elizabeth.”

Mom looked at me and held my hand tight while saying, “John, let’s think rationally. Do you think you can go to school and take care of your mother at the same time?” I said, “I can try. If not, school can wait.” She said, “Do you think Helen would want you to quit school when she is going to be in the hospital for weeks or months?” “But Kate, she needs me. Mary Elizabeth needs me.” Ignoring my lapse of etiquette, mom said, “How will dropping out help? Wouldn’t you be more help by being educated so that later, down the road you can be there to help?” I said, “But where do I go? You’re sending me back, my year is up. If granny is with mom, I can’t go to West Virginia.”

Mom said, “How about you start eighth grade with us? We don’t want you to leave. You’re our family. We don’t want to lose you. We will never `send’ you back anywhere. Our home is your home as long as you want it to be or until your mother is well and can be with you.”

“You’ll let me stay?” was all I could say before starting to cry on her shoulder. She said, “Honey, we just got you all broke in, what would be the fun of letting you go now? You would just go off and be a terrible dresser again and grow out that girly girl head of curls. We can’t let that happen, now can we?”

In spite of everything going on she made me laugh. I said, “I guess not. Going back to the old me wouldn’t be my first choice mom. Except for being with mother, I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be.” I never did fall in love with the look of the horseshoe although it `grew’ on me. As much as I loved my long curls, I actually loved the feel of a freshly shaved scalp even more. The horseshoe fringe didn’t do much for my tactile senses, but when I took dates to the school dances, most of the girls said they liked how my fringe tickled them when they moved their hand over my always fresh haircut and shaved scalp. Go figure!

We stayed in Detroit, for over a week. When we left, mother was still in the hospital and would be there for several weeks at the very least. Two days before the start of school, we got back to my home. After unpacking and trying to relax from a horrible week and situation, I knocked on the door of my parent’s bedroom. I asked my mom for a favor. I said, “Mom I think I need a ride tomorrow because when I was little and in grade school, my mom and dad always took to the barber for a back to school haircut. It’s been three weeks because of everything that happened. With school starting the day after tomorrow, don’t you think I need a trim and shave before it gets much longer and people start thinking I’m some kind of big city girly girl?” Uncle Bob and Aunt Kate looked at me, and then each other. They just smiled.
The End (for now anyway)

P.S. My mother did survive her long battle with cancer and lived cancer free for 15 yrs. before her passing in 1996. My 9th grade was completed in WV. Do to mom’s illness, I returned happily to SC for my 10th grade and Junior year. Mom had another remission that led to me being able to graduate from high school in WV, with her in attendance (Thank You God) even though I really considered my SC junior high and senior high school my scholastic home. GO YELLOWJACKETS?


This story and `No Statute Of Limitations’ has been a very close representation of my (and my sister’s) hair styles from my early childhood to my early-mid teens. In that time I went from very short, to short, to very long and to very gone. The last thirty plus years have seen my hair return to long, to short and gone again. Some was by choice and some not. Two periods were spent bald (the first, like my mother due to chemo and the second by choice). To not leave anyone hanging or in some sort suspense, I have been remission for over a year and a half now and my hair is still very curly, as well as very gray and has grown to about six inches over the last eleven months.

If there is any further interest in my high school, college, or post graduate school hair adventures (of which there were several, my curls would return in a couple of years though they didn’t have the same fascination and over the years they came and went several times) you need to let me know if you would like me to share them so that I can write them (although there will never be anything to take the place of my first SC hair cut and the first year I spent with my almost adopted family. The only period I’m not interested in writing about as I’m still dealing with it, is the last few cancer and post cancer years. Oh yeah. I almost forgot, when I got all growed up (English teachers please forgive) I renewed my love of Motown and R&B music and was ready for 80s rock & pop, not to mention McDonalds and Coke and Pepsi. I also renewed my love of my Spanish heritage and still embrace it as well as my American heritage. Sadly I’ve only been able to visit my relatives in Spain twice since having my passport reinstated when I was 19.

If you would like to comment (positive or negative) on this true story, please contact me. Doing so ultimately leads to better writing and reading. Thank you again for taking the time to read this story. It has been a cathartic experience.
J.B.

Author: Juan Butini Copyright protected c 2008 MAJF r 2008. This story is for personal use only. Please do not download or copy this story without getting a “heads up” from the author. I would not do it to you without asking. It just ain’t right. Thanks and enjoy (hopefully).

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