Brandi Chambless – More Than Cinnamon

When I think of October, the first two things that come to mind are road trips and the smell of cinnamon candles at home.  The respite of fairer weather is sure to inspire both!

If I’m not on the road, my Mama mechanism kicks into high gear and I begin to nest like a mini-Martha.  One thing leads to another and my pillow fluffing morphs into sweater buying which spills over into the salon where I might undergo a little sprucing up of my own!

This year I hit the road and visited a salon I used to frequent years ago that I remembered as THE epicenter of all that is beauty, fashion, and just good ‘ol GLAM!  It didn’t matter how frazzled your ‘fro was when you went in, when you came out you were nothing less than a makeshift supermodel on your next grocery-getting mission.

I couldn’t wait to reconnect with my friend Beverly, the visionary and salon owner, and share all that has happened since we last spoke backstage at a fashion show many years past.  I remembered her as being likely middle-aged but always looking 20 years younger.  She was tan even in winter, physically fit, and always dressed in something I wished I had thought of wearing before she did so, for once, I could claim bragging rights on setting the trend!  Back then, we both had pixie haircuts as short as could be with a ton of black hair framing the face and spiky chunks at the crown.  I remembered the artistry of Beverly and wondered what she would do with this old mop, now down my back again.  Because it was Beverly…anything was an option.

As my car bumped up to the curb in a blundering iCloud, the outside of the salon looked exactly the same.  I must have had the first appointment because mine was the only car.

Beverly was obviously running behind.

Another woman drove up beside me and also hurriedly parked; the stout woman who stepped out of the SUV was anything but vigorous.  I wondered if we had appointments at the same time with a different hairdresser.  My, did she need a little polishing, thought my inner Southern Belle.  It’s a good thing she had come to Beverly because she was in the right place for a fix.

I did a double take when the whole world seemed to briefly stop revolving around the aged woman and myself.  There was something so utterly familiar about her face.  When her eyes met mine, all the changes of time were evident before me.  Beverly.  “Hey doll,” I heard her say in her raspy smoker’s voice, while my own voice inside my head reminded me to either close my mouth, speak, or just smile.  I just smiled. 

After enough gawking to answer the question, “Could this really be Beverly?” I finally added some words to my smile and we embraced.  I can’t remember exactly what I said, but it wasn’t anything like, “You haven’t changed a bit.”

For she had changed.  Everything about her had changed.  When we entered the dark salon, it smelled dingy like entering an old abandoned home.  The trendy display shelves that I remembered being so precisely lit to showcase the European shampoos she would have recommended—they were now just homes for dust and cobwebs.  “Where was everyone?” I asked myself, having expected
to hear the signature buzz of Beverly’s place that I remembered.

Don’t get me wrong.   I’m not so vain as to think that I haven’t done a little changing of my own since my late 20s, but the dramatic story told by the dirty walls indicated to me that something more had happened inside of Beverly to bring her from the heights of yesterday’s cosmo culture to this place where the only friend left standing was a little dog she called Princess.  I must confess that I thought Princess, who dropped more hair on the floor than anyone, could have rightfully been named Pauper and it been much more appropriate a name.

No dog hair or dust could deter me from gathering up my smock and sitting in the chair of one such spatial reasoning genius.   I unveiled my untamed (understatement) trestles from the ponytail holder that had been my security blanket all summer long.  Before even making one recommendation, Beverly brushed my hair for about 30 minutes, stepping at least three feet away several times with a furled brow, a tilt of her head, and a hand to her chin.  The longer she brushed, the bigger my hair grew.

“Hmmmmn.  Okay…,”then a minute or two later… “I see what’s going on here…” followed by more brushing.  Then without hesitation, “Let’s get you to the shampoo bowl.”

At the shampoo bowl we were cutting up and enjoying so many memories that her gum even fell out of her mouth onto my face, but getting one of Beverly’s mathematically accurate haircuts was worth the incredible inconvenience of that, I decided.

My time catching up with her was a treat to my soul.  I know that guys view a haircut as just that–a haircut.  But for girls, well, it’s a totally different story.  Something about hair therapy is good medicine and the best stylists are those that have a great gift of listening, encouraging, injecting practical and sometimes even scriptural wisdom, and just reminding us that though we may be at the very edge of hormonal implosion that it’s all going to be okay.  It’s any wonder that a stylist can produce anything symmetrical at all with all of the counseling they provide to us gals, yet, they do. 

And so it was with Beverly.  After I had filled her in on the highlights of all my life’s joys and sorrows over the last fifteen years, the tables turned when she looked at me to fill me in on her lifetime experiences.  I thought they would be detailed and intricate, but she summed them up into two words that I already knew, but wouldn’t dare say.

“I’m old,” she said at first, and then began to reveal a few of life’s battle scars.  She explained how she was burned out and her body ached now if she cut hair for more than a few hours each day.  To make it sound better, I called her semi-retired. 

When I asked her how long she would continue cutting hair she said, “As long as ya’ll keep calling.”  I wondered how long that would be.  Though she didn’t seem to be operating a very progressive business plan, she seemed happy to live life according to her own terms.

When Beverly was done, the end result was nothing less than what I would have expected.  It didn’t matter which way I tossed Beverly’s fresh creation, every hair would pop right back where she had told it to be.  I felt like one of her New York runway models, knowing that I would never be able to reproduce her artistry on my own; I threw that old ponytail holder in the trash anyway.  Her body may have been failing, but her skill set was alive and well.

So, what would have been a quick haircut on the go turned out to be a two-hour analysis of more than just my wild locks and her dusty shelves.  It was the exchange of two life stories between old friends.  When we said goodbye, my hair went “swoosh” in the breeze and I paused briefly, detecting a hint of autumn’s change.  I wondered if I would see Beverly again on an October road trip somewhere down the road.  I drove away still thinking of the stories Beverly had told about her life, sensing the truth of life being but a vapor and that outer beauty alone is not the only thing fleeting. 

This Autumn, when we feel the splendor of the first North wind, enjoy the friendships we have cultivated through the years, or meditate on our deepest and innermost convictions, we can be assured that though the seasons may change, the Maker of the seasons never will.  He is an abiding friend who knows every bend of each hair on our heads.  Like my friend Beverly realized, all the material riches of life could not possibly match the only One satisfying source of true contentment.  As we welcome another October, may our hearts find an inexpressible joy in more than just the scent of cinnamon, and from my heart to yours, may your autumn be the most blessed one of all times. 

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Brandi Chambless
Brandi Chambless
Read Brandi's column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette newspaper.

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