Hair grows. Without a hair cut I have returned to braids. I wore my hair in braids through the fourth grade more or less, including on a trip to Europe when I was 9. I have a picture of me in a wine grotto in France, glass in hand, eyes a little glazed, and yes, braids. My father’s aunt had left him $10,000 – a lot of money in the 1950s – and my parents decided to blow it all on a six month trip to Europe, four of which were spent in Paris. It was one of their best decisions and I am grateful for it. I have memories of the musty smell of the Lascaux Caves, a train ride through a very long, pitch black tunnel in Switzerland on my birthday, a hangover after a wine tasting in a French grotto, and the Vatican where a pigeon pooped on my atheist father’s bald head.
But the most vivid memories are of our time in Paris. We lived in a pension (boarding house). I had my own tiny room. The bathroom was at the end of the hall. I was feeling very grown up and luckily I had a role model, Claire. Claire’s mother had died, and she and her father had moved from Canada to Paris. She was deep and mysterious, harboring something that was only to be guessed at. She was very obedient, and her oui-madame was flawless. All the grown ups felt sorry for her; all the kids were fascinated by her. To me, she was the ultimate in glamour. I was 9 and she was 11.