Class Pictures


Tiff Holland

 

Little Lulu, thatís who I look like in the first picture, like a cartoon character. My hair is flat, all one length, held down by plastic butterfly hair bows. My bangs are too short. Still, I am smiling, missing a couple of teeth in front. Itís my kindergarten picture. Mom has taken my snub-nosed scissors and cut me away from Mrs. Johnsonís class. She glued my face onto a piece of velvet and stuck it into a gold lame frame. My brothers make fun of the picture. Little Lulu, they say and point at it. The next year, mom takes their kindergarten pictures and cuts their heads out, too, glues them into the center of an identical frame. They have crew cuts and look like all the other little boys in their class. They are not wearing purple jumpers. I want to make fun of them but canít think of anything good. Finally, I tell them, at least I donít have to share a frame.
The next year, I ditch the hair bows. My teeth have come in, and I grin crookedly from Mrs. Foxís first grade. I am in love with Perry Robinson, who carries a mailbox shaped lunch box with ĎU.S. Mailí on the side. I carry a square, plaid lunch box. I sneak a pair of shorts on under my dress, so I can twirl on the old teeter-totter bars at recess. When my hair starts to get into my eyes, mom takes me to have it cut. I hate the smell of the beauty shop and all the old ladies, talking loudly under the dryers so that they can hear one another.
Second grade, my hair is shorter. Instead of rolling into balls at the ends, like Luluís, it just touches my shoulders. Perry asks to sit next to me at lunch. I still have bangs. Mom buys three more pairs of scissors, and when the boys and I get home from school, we sit around the kitchen table. We cut toilet paper rolls into thirds and glue red and green felt on the sides and the ends; we sprinkle glitter. They are drums to hang on the Christmas tree. Mom has had a breakdown. The doctor says she needs to do something with her hands.
After Christmas, they move me up a grade, and I finish the year with Mrs. Arbogast and a shag. Mom cuts my hair in the dining room with a sheet around my neck. She is practicing the latest styles because she is going back to work. Sheís going to cut hair for a woman named Betty Petty who has a beauty shop at the end of the street. Sit still, mom says while she shaves my neck with a razor. It makes a sound like a zipper. At school, Perry says he doesnít want to go with me any more, that I look like a boy.
I beat up a lot of boys on the playground in fifth grade. Anyone says anything about my hair gets it, right in the mouth. I am not smiling in the class picture. I miss my old friends who are still in fourth grade. Mom isnít home when we get off the school bus. Betty needs her at the shop. When Betty has a heart attack in the middle of a shampoo and set, mom buys the shop.
I tell Mom I want my hair feathered in sixth grade. All the girls look like Farah Fawcett. I like Lee Majors better, and I practice squinting one eye, using my bionic vision. I tell mom I want brand name jeans, too, Levis, but I donít tell her itís so the boys can chase me around the playground the way they chase Kim Ruble, to try to tear the orange tag off of the pocket. Ten tags and you get a free pair of jeans.
Seventh grade, my hair is perfect. Itís feathered. It lays just right. The old ladies at the dryers tell me how beautiful it is. They try to touch it. Tad Collins does, too. He pets me like a dog when I meet him to neck in the church parking lot. We donít go to church anymore because Sunday is momís only day off, and she does the books. Dad complains that sheís never there to cook dinner when he gets home. She calls him Milquetoast. I donít know exactly what that means, but I hate the way it sounds.
In high school, Tad dumps me for Lori Hollinger, We donít get class pictures any more. Instead, there are yearbooks, our faces spread out alphabetically, floating between ĎOur Facultyí and the football team. Dad comes home with his own hair cutting scissors. He says heís enrolled in the Gerber Beauty School. Heís going to help mom, because she works too hard. Heís going to become a managing cosmologist, and then she can have more days off. His case is bigger than a doctorís case, and it has slots for three different pairs of scissors, razors that fold out like switch blades and bobtail combs. He has a book with illustrations of all the bones and muscles in the head, but Mom and dad divorce before he ever gets his license. I take all the scissors out of his case after he moves away.
Now, divorced, thirty-five with no one to eat lunch with me, I cut my own hair. I keep the old photos in a box, in the hall, and I donít take new ones. I got tired of the beauty shop, the way mom yanked my head back into the shampoo bowl while the old ladies watched. I use dadís old scissors, and I cut my hair straight across the top, so it stands up. I canít keep my fingers away from it. So soft. I look like my brothers, in that frame they shared so many years ago in the hall. Now, theyíre both bald on top.


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