I remember when he was born and when he was fat and how I'd gaze into those eyes-too-big and wonder how I might define one colour that was really three. I remember how I cried when he cried because he just.wouldn't.stop. and how I prayed for reprieve and for peace and how all this new-momma war was surely going to break me into a million pieces.
And I remember how he did stop. And how he smiled. And how I thought, if I can only do this right - just this - someday, he will change the world.
I remember how he'd fall asleep, face tucked against my neck, dream bubbles blowing against my collar bone, little fist tight and long lashes curled, me - there drifting in his warmth - pushed back into the green cushion of the chair Aunt Carol almost threw away.
Eleven years. No. Near twelve now. And I'm not sure who I am if I couldn't-wouldn't-wasn't his mother. This sweet boy who terrorizes his little brother and is annoyed by his little sister and still hugs and kisses his momma even if people are watching.
And he wants to change the world. He wants to be a hero. Not with a cape. Not with super powers. Just with love.
When he announced his intentions I felt it heavy in my belly - heavy in the womb that birthed him - who am I to make a child who would sacrifice his crown to better the life of a stranger?
Down to his waist. This glory that spills from a head set on giving. And I am as proud of his hair as I am of him. And I am so stupidly afraid that the loss of that hair will mean the loss of him. And it's completely illogical but my heart hurts for it the same way it hurt when the little brother cut the mane of the little sister.
But my heart is also full. And maybe it's the full that hurts - like panic and joy and fear and love and all this mixed up in a heart-burst stew.
And the day came. And I stood with him in the school hallway and brushed it for the last time and braided it for easy travel and students filed passed us, their footfalls echoing and their hands raised to high-five this son of mine. And they passed him coins - nickles and quarters and toonies. And they were hooting and 'good job' ing and 'way to go' ing.
I think if I hadn't needed to focus on the job of the video camera I couldn't have gotten through without tears. There was a moment when I felt it hitch up and that caught breath in my throat and that telling burn - just as he left to climb the stage stairs - but I swallowed it down and pretended strength as he sat so still upon the chair and waited as scissors broke through seven years of his living.
He seemed a little afraid. A little unsure of who he might be now that it was gone. But what I am realizing is that it wasn't his special. His special was not that cascade of gold. His special is the heart that would give up the cascade.
And when the cheers erupted from the crowd of his peers, from the family that came to watch, from the people who believed in him, he stood clutching that braid that was no longer a part of him and beamed embarrassed and pleased, standing by the father who took the same journey with him. (That's a whole different story.)
At the end of it all his efforts have raised in excess of $1700. And he is still he. I have lost nothing. Nothing but clogged drains.
I don't have words for how proud I am - how pleased I am that my wee, ever-crying, tri-coloured-eye baby has become a generous, selfless, the-world-is bigger-than-what's-for-dinner?, near man. And I like to imagine, that somewhere out there, a struggling eleven-year-old boy is going to have his life made better by the blessing of my son's hair, fashioned into a wig to ease the suffering of a cancerous battle.
Hair is not definitive. It is merely an accessory.