Bad Hair Day

Ireland is on my mind, because I’m very close to heading that direction. Just a couple more weeks. I’m going, this time, to attend the wedding of my niece, Ashling. (Also, it will be very, very nice to see my husband.)

Actually the last two times I’ve traveled to Ireland have been for weddings, too, and every time I look at those pictures (any of the pictures from Ireland, really), I always wonder What was wrong with my hair? I generally wonder it while I’m in Ireland, too, but, like the pain of childbirth, you forget in the wake of the delight.


I don’t generally have a bad hair day. I have a good hairdresser who gives me a good cut for my particular hair, and that’s the secret. My hair cooperates 99 percent of the time. But in Ireland … not so much. I end up wishing I looked better in those family photographs, with the What was wrong with my hair? question plaguing me.

And then it dawned on me. I researched. And yes, I have the solution, ladies.

I obtained this map from the AquaSafe article linked below.

I obtained this map from the AquaSafe article linked below.

It’s hard water. The folks at AquaSafe in Limerick say,

Rainwater is naturally soft. It only becomes hard if it percultes through chalk and limestone and dissolves some of the minerals. So the kind of water you have depends on the surrounding geology and the source of your water supply – whether it is river or ground water. Most of Ireland has hard water.

When you have hard water (we do here in Tennessee too), you get build-up of “scale” (various minerals, particularly calcium) in your pipes, your washing machine, hot water heater … and your hair (where it’s much less obvious). Gerry and I have a water softener here in the house, so when I go to Ireland and start washing my hair in hard water, those minerals collect in my hair and give me day after day of bad hair.

There are remedies. Easiest, perhaps, is to rinse your hair, after shampooing, in vinegar or lemon juice. Or use a store-bought “clarifying” shampoo (I got one from my hairdresser). These shampoos are intended to remove “product build-up,” and should be used sparingly, since they’ll dry out your hair with daily use. It will be OK to use it Ireland, though, to overcome the mineral buildup that my hair just isn’t used to.

Problem solved!

William Butler Yeats: It’s His Year (Yeats2015)

I fell in love with Yeats when I was a teenager and I’ve never fallen out.

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you …

OMG, such a romantic, that Yeats.

William Butler Yeats (age 46) by George Charles Beresford, 15 July 1911 © National Portrait Gallery, London; obtained under a Creative Commons license.

William Butler Yeats (age 46) by George Charles Beresford, 15 July 1911 © National Portrait Gallery, London; obtained under a Creative Commons license.

He was the first Irishman awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1923), and now, as we approach the 150th anniversary of his birth (13 June 1865), the Irish government has planned a year of artistic and cultural events to celebrate: Yeats 2015.

Everyone’s getting in on the act …

The Irish Times says,

A year-long celebration of the life and works of the poet WB Yeats gets underway this evening [1 January 2015] with a poetry reading in Sligo’s oldest bar. Senator Susan O’Keeffe will read from one of Yeats’ poems in Hargadon’s. The pub will host a reading of Yeats’ poems at lunchtime every day this year to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. Ms O’Keeffe is the chair of Yeats150 which has organised a year-long programme of events. …

Ms O’Keeffe said: “Yeats himself founded a poetry club called the Rhymers Club in a pub call the Cheshire Cheese Pub in London so it seems fitting to start this exciting year of celebration with poetry in the pub.

“Already there are a huge number of events planned. Our National Cultural Institutions, including the National Library, National Gallery and The Abbey Theatre are all programming Yeats themed exhibitions and events in 2015,” she said. …

The organisers behind Yeats 2015 expect to attract 85,000 extra visitors to Ireland, and hope it will generate renewed interest in Irish culture and literature.

Eighty-five thousand extra visitors? Oh, my. The Times goes on to say, “The highlight of the year will be Yeats Day on June 13th.”

I’m going to just miss it. (Bloomsday too.) I arrive in Dublin on the 17th. But that’s OK. I’ll still have Mr. Yeats in my heart.

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
(“Among School Children,” from The Tower, 1928)


The Cigarette Box

The cigarette box …

The cigarette box …

I have a cedar chest, and it has all sorts of things in it—school projects from when I was a little girl, some of Jesse’s baby clothes, one of my father’s suits, little mementos, and a lot of old greeting cards and letters, many of them from my dad. Why? Because, like photographs, they have reminders of his personality: his handwriting. (Due to her illness, my mother ceased to be able to write when I was ten years old and not of an age to think about saving things, really. So I only have items of hers that predate me, like her high school scrapbook.)

My father was a smoker, have I mentioned that? Yes, I have inhaled a lot of secondhand smoke in my life. Of course, no one knew, no one even thought about the hazards of secondhand smoke until the early ’70s, and I was out of the house by 1972. But Daddy was a dedicated smoker, from about age eight until he died at sixty-three (too young). We used to laugh and say he’d be buried with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other, back when we were too young to fear death, for ourselves or for him. It’s less funny now that I’m his age.

As it turns out, we didn’t bury him; he preferred cremation. And this means no mementos were sacrificed.

He had an aluminum box, two nesting halves, in which he kept his pack of cigarettes (Kools, menthol), so they wouldn’t get bumped or crushed in all the strapping and belting of himself into the cockpit of a plane belonging to the United States Air Force. Daddy had that box as long as I can remember; it was an extension of him.

Last Thanksgiving we’d all gone our separate ways to feast, but I had everyone (the local fam) over for a dessert buffet. My brother and his wife (Jon and Teresa) lingered after everyone else had gone, just chatting. They’d been fixing up their house to sell, finding mysterious boxes and opening them, and so on. One box, unopened for twenty-three years, revealed Daddy’s cigarette box.

I said, “Oh my God, Jon, and you didn’t bring it? I want to hold it!”

They were walking out the door; Teresa and I were on the porch and Jon had walked out onto the lawn but he turned and watched me as I did this little wiggle dance thing, raising my arms and waving them around (you had to be there, I guess). “I want to just hold it in my hands and feel him!” For me, Daddy is a happy memory.*

Jon walked back to the porch and he had tears in his eyes, could barely speak. “I’ve already done that several times today,” he said. 🙂

These little talismans have such power over us.

I was out there on the 13th of December—family Christmas before I left for Phoenix—and Jon took me straight to it, and I held it. I’m glad he has it. But I told him if it were me, I would never be without it; I’d find a use for it and carry it everywhere!**

It’s a great story. But it loses something without my front-porch shimmy and hand-waving, me pulling down the Spirit of Daddy from the universe. 🙂

He was larger than life, my Daddy. And so at home in that flight suit.

He was larger than life, my Daddy. And so at home in that flight suit.

*Sure, the sorrow never leaves. He was gone much too soon. He was a fabulous father and would have been so proud of the people his grandchildren have grown up to be. But the immediacy of grief fades over time, thank goodness.

** I have something just as talismanic: his pocket pen. I gave it to him for a birthday or Father’s Day or something when I was about sixteen, and he never, ever carried another pen.