When I was a kid my Dad was really into making home movies – I’m guessing he had one of the first home video cameras in the world – or at least the first in our neighbourhood. It was an old Kodak wind-up film camera and from 1958 until the late 1970s, he used it to capture every Christmas, birthday and holiday memory for our family. Many of my early recollections of Christmas morning relate to the movie production protocol as we would enter the living room in order of age – youngest first – enduring the blinding bright lights of the camera so that my Dad could capture the looks of astonishment and joy at the loot old St. Nick had dragged down the chimney to fill the entire room.
Unlike today’s instant results – we would have to wait weeks to see these movies – my Dad would pack up the little film canisters and mail them away to the developing lab. We would all be dying to relive these wonderful memories, so when the finished product came back we would plead and beg until my Dad hauled out the giant 8 mm movie projector and set up the big screen for the grand unveiling. Each movie was only a few minutes long, and I would dread the telltale white spots that would herald the end of the show.
We would all cry and complain as the movie finished, and there would be no peace for my Dad until he agreed to play all the old ones, too. Eventually, probably in self-defense, he bought an editing machine so that he could splice all of these 5 minute movies together into a few epic features, using my little stamp set to make the titles. Of course I had lost some of the letters, most notably the ‘E’, so he had to improvise by carefully using the ‘F’ upside down to add the bottom leg. Occasionally he would shoot a few frames before noticing that he’d not fixed an ‘E’ and we would all giggle with delight to see the bottom leg of the ‘E’ magically appear in the resulting movies.
From toddler to teenager there was one common thread in these movies for me – my atrocious hair. A chronic victim of bed-head since birth (there – I’ve admitted it), there isn’t a single one of these Christmas morning videos in which I’ve got my hair under control. Hair appeared as a common theme for my Mom as well, but this was something we only noticed once Dad spliced all the movies together. My Mom had different hair colors in each of them – sometimes she would be a blond, sometimes a brunette, occasionally a flaming bright redhead. Until we saw these changes all grouped together in rapid sequence, we hadn’t really noticed.
I’ve been thinking a lot about those old movies myself lately as I look into the mirror – you see, I am undergoing rapid hair colour changes myself these days. My hair turned nearly white in my early 30s (strangely coincident with the timing of my PhD) – and though I accepted it for a while, I reached the end of my endurance at 38, when I took my parents to WallMart on seniors day and got offered the discount by a woman at least 10 years older than me!
So I’ve been coloring my hair since my late 30s – with mixed and varied success and strangeness. The first experiment involved a trainee at the hairdresser’s – always a scary prospect. One of them – the hairdresser or her student apprentice – screwed up the recipe and, as they rinsed the dye from my hair, they uttered an “Oh!” in unison. My hair ended up jet black! I have always loved seeing the reactions of people to my sudden hair changes – this switch from near white to jet black caused women’s eyes to bulge and men’s Adam’s apples to jiggle up and down like gobbling turkeys. After that (expensive) disaster, I tried colouring it myself for a while but, as you can see below, that led to considerable inconsistency. For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been shelling out $60 to $80 every three weeks to get something closer to my ‘natural’ hair colour.
However, now that I’m about to become a ‘junior-senior’ (i.e. I’ll be turning 55 soon) and I have the wrinkles to prove it – I’m ready to start cashing in on those seniors’ discounts. So I’ve decided to finally grow up and go gray – a transition that was supposed to pass from brown through blond – however, it’s been more like varying shades of orange – something I’ve seen far too much of since the experiments began almost 20 years ago. Frankly I can’t wait for gray now – I’m sick of having orange hair! So stay tuned to see the last picture in the series!
Between the seniors’ discounts and the small fortune I’ll be saving at the hairdresser’s – I might even be able to afford to retire someday – that’s at least a bit of consolation for getting old!
Update – on Nov. 4, 2012 – my hair has finally grown out and I will soon be ready to start cashing in on those junior-seniors’ discounts!