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Christine went straight from the salon to the railway station, and arrived in plenty of time. She popped in to the ladies to check her appearance, and was pleased to see that her curls were still in perfect shape. Another point in favour of a well-scrubbed face was that her make up didn’t need checking and touching up! She re-tied her headscarf and went onto the platform to wait for Mum.

The train was on time, and Christine had no difficulty spotting her Mum as she got off. She was dressed very smartly, in a navy blue jacket and matching long, pleated skirt. Her crisp white blouse had a ruffled front and an elegant high collar. She too was wearing a headscarf to protect what Christine was sure would be smart, formally styled hair.

As Christine and her Mum came together on the platform, Mum’s face broke into a broad smile.

‘Hello dear,’ she said, ‘it’s lovely to see you, especially looking so smart. I do like your scarf.’ There was a pause as Mum peered at the scarf more closely. ‘And do I see some curls under there?’ she enquired, with a puzzled, but pleased tone.

‘Come in to the waiting room,’ replied Christine, ‘and I’ll show you what I’ve been up to this morning.’

Mum followed her into the waiting room, and Christine removed her headscarf. Mum gasped, and then beamed.

‘I hope you like it.’ said her daughter, ‘I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I know you’ve always wanted to see me with my hair cut up nice and short, into a smart, traditional style. It’s partly a thank-you, to you, for putting me through university, and generally being a wonderful Mum, but it also just felt like the right time. I’m not a little girl, or a student any more, and I decided it was time for a change. I thought that if I want to get a professional job, then it would be appropriate to look a bit more neat and tidy, and generally have a more grown up appearance.’

‘Well I’m absolutely thrilled.’ replied Mum. ‘I’m so proud to have a daughter who not only looks so smart and presentable, but who has adopted such a sensible approach to her appearance, and for all the right reasons. I do hope that the neat and tidy Christine will be here to stay?’

‘Oh yes,’ enthused Christine, ‘I’ve not really had time to get used to it yet, but I just can’t imagine growing this back out into the long, fussy mane I had before. And with a short, neat hairstyle, I’ll have to dress appropriately. I think all of my jeans and baggy t-shirts will be going in the bin.’ There was a brief pause before Christine added, thoughtfully ‘Along with most of my make-up too….’

‘Yes,’agreed her Mum, ‘I had noticed what a nice clean face you have, and I’m very pleased about that too. There’s nothing wrong with a little make up, occasionally, but you’re such a pretty girl that you really don’t need any. So tell me, are these curls here to stay, or are they just for today?’

‘Well I haven’t had a perm.’ said Christine, blushing slightly, ‘I’m not sure how long they’ll stay in for. I hadn’t really thought about it, but I certainly like being short and curly so far.’

As they walked back to Christine’s halls, she told her Mum every detail of the morning, to her Mum’s increasing delight. Back in Christine’s room, she tried on a couple of outfits that her Mum had brought. They settled on a smart calf-length Laura Ashley floral dress, with a pretty lace collar and a navy blue blazer. She had cream-coloured low court shoes, and while Christine would have happily gone bare legged as it was a warm day, Mum insisted on her wearing cream hold-ups. To finish the look Christine wore small pearl studs in her ears and a pearl necklace.

Mum looked her up and down, and sighed happily. ‘Christine, you look an absolute picture. I can’t imagine you looking any better. Thank you.’ And she gave Christine a warm hug and a gentle kiss.

Christine blushed deeply, as she felt warm feelings rise up inside her. These lasted all through the journey up to the graduation ceremony, as there were frequent occasions when she would reach up to touch her stiff new curls, or smooth down her conservative dress, and catch her mother smiling happily as she watched her newly smartened-up daughter getting used to her new appearance. Once they arrived at the ceremony Mum went to find her seat in the audience and Christine congregated with the other students. As she approached a group of her friends one of them spotted her, and her eyes opened wide in surprise.

‘Wow! Christine. You look very ummm… smart. What have you done with all that long hair?’

‘Well Susan, I had it cut up nice and short, and then curled, so that it would look neat and tidy. I know that Mum’s always wanted to see me with short curly hair, so I did it as a surprise for her.’

Susan smiled encouragingly at this, but it seemed not everyone was so impressed.

‘I suppose scrubbing off all your make up and wearing Laura Ashley ‘curtains’ was for your Mummy too?’

This sneer came from a girl whom Christine considered an acquaintance rather than a friend, who had always been one of the most fashion-conscious girls in Christine’s year. She had a full face of make up, which Christine felt would have looked tarty under any circumstances, and was wearing a short skirt and low cut top, both very tightly fitting. Her long hair had been trendily layered and highlighted, and she had obviously spent a long time with her straighteners this morning, ensuring that her natural waves were completely eradicated in favour of the poker-straight locks the fashion magazines demanded. She shook her head to show off her long locks, and leave her face partly obscured. Christine felt an almost maternal urge to reach out and tuck the girl’s hair neatly behind her ear, but restrained herself, and calmly replied.

‘Well, yes. With my hair short and neatly curled I didn’t really think that provocative clothes and tons of make up would look right.’

‘Well I think you look lovely.’ interjected Susan. I don’t graduate until tomorrow, but my Mum’s coming up today, and I think I’ll get her to take me shopping to Laura Ashley. We might even pay a visit to the hairdressers.’

Christine would have loved to have taken this conversation further, but a bell rang to tell them that the ceremony was about to start, and they all filed off into their assigned places.

The ceremony went off smoothly, and afterwards Christine met up with her Mum outside to get photos taken. There were several photographers vying for customers, but one stood out immediately to Christine and her Mum. She was a middle aged lady wearing a very smart black and white checked suit, and a hairstyle that was obviously the product of setting lotion, rollers and lacquer.

‘Good Morning,’ began Christine’s Mum. ‘I wonder if you could take some photos of my daughter and me.’

‘Certainly.’ replied the photographer.

‘I’d like a normal, full length pose,’ said Mum ‘and also a close up, head and shoulders picture, to show off her lovely neat curls.’

‘That’s an excellent idea. I must say, it’s nice to see a young lady with such a smart hairstyle. Most of them seem to have these ridiculous long stringy manes, that just make them look scruffy. Rat’s tails! That’s what they called them when I was young.’

Christine and her Mum smiled their agreement at this, and her mum replied. ‘Yes, you’re absolutely right. But there’s always hope, Christine here had a head full of ‘rat’s tails’ until this morning. She had it cut nice and short, and styled like this as a surprise for me.’

‘What a lovely surprise it must have been.’ replied the photographer. ‘And how are you enjoying having a proper, smart hairstyle Christine?’

Christine was blushing again, at the photographer’s and her mother’s obvious enthusiasm for her short neat curls, but managed to collect her thoughts and reply. ‘I’m enjoying it very much, thank you. It’s very reassuring to know that my hair will stay looking smart and presentable all day, without me having to fuss over it. It’s also lovely to know how ha
ppy and proud I’ve made my Mum, just by visiting the hairdressers, and putting on a nice conservative dress.’

‘I think there was a bar of soap involved somewhere too.’ reminded her mother.

‘Oh yes,’ said Christine, blushing again. ‘Scrubbing my make up off was the final touch.’

‘Well we must certainly make sure that all these efforts aren’t wasted.’ said the photographer. ‘Come over here and we’ll take some pictures of the smartest mother and daughter here today.’

One of the resulting pictures, head and shoulders of Christine and her Mum, showing two very smart, conservative ladies, with immaculately set hair, well scrubbed faces, and smart, conservative clothes, was placed on Christine’s Mum’s bedside table, and remained there for many years, as a constant reminder of a wonderful day.


Author’s note: Please send feedback to the email address at the top, especially if you like the story. More of Christine’s story, and others should appear in due course.

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