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Strands: When It was just You and I

Updated: Apr 3, 2023


April is National Poetry Month. I offer up some poetic verse, reflecting on a moment of connection with my beloved mother, that recently spanned decades.


Remember this commercial from the 60's?

Me at 9 years old - Des Moines, Iowa


At a leggy nine-years-old, I barely fit on the hard Formica counter,

It’s time to wash my hair, my favorite nightly ritual.

A rolled towel is tucked under my neck as I lean back.

You reach under my head gathering all the fine long strands of my hair,

And let them fall into the sink.


I hear the sound of the ribbed tubing as you pull the small black sprayer from its home,

and test the water on your hand.

“It’s just right,” you think.

The wet warmth slides down my scalp.

Gentle strokes at my hairline make sure all the fine brown hair is wet.

You gently turn my head, pushing in each earlobe to block the water from my ears.

The sprayer slides back into its home.

A bubbly squirt fills your hand and I close my eyes,



This is the moment I wait for.

Feeling the welcome softness of your cotton blouse

leaning over and brushing my right cheek,

and the smell of your Charlie perfume.

Your fingers rhythmically rub on both sides of my head, as fluid become foam;

hands dipping down and gathering the strands into a soapy dance.

I feel safe and loved,

and for a brief few minutes,

I have you all to myself—

No babies to feed, no phones to answer, no meals to make,

just you and I.


I open my eyes to see you smiling down at me.

The world has gone far away.

There is another warm rinse;

your delicate peach painted fingertips helping the bubbles along.

Then it is quiet for a moment.



A small squirt of Tame Cream Rinse slides into a silver measuring cup filled with water.

“There are many heads to wash,” you say, “and it’s a good way to save a few pennies.”

You lift the measuring cup and slide it across my forehead left to right

making sure a little of the milky detangler hits every strand.

The sweet smell and your tenderness flows over me.

I breathe it in deeply.

A few soft conversational words,

and the sprayer is called to duty once more.

I feel the weight of all my small little worries rinse away,

and swirl with the cream rinse down the drain.

Squeezing and twisting my hair to get the last of the water out,

I feel your hand lift me upright,

my leggy nine-year-old legs now hanging on either side of you.

Close as we can be, I can feel your love.


You adorn my head with a terrycloth veil, hands roughing up the strands to dry them a bit;

then quickly wrap it around my shoulders.

I leap down, stepping away,

watching the next sibling jump up for their one-on-one time with you.

I dab my hair with the towel and turn to see another squirt of Tame slide into the cup,

and can’t wait till the next time,

when it’s just you and me again.



Fifty-five years have flown by.

After thirty minutes waiting to make sure the brown dye has sufficiently covered my gray,

the stylist sends me to the shampoo station.

I lay back on the hard chair too short for my long legs,

And feel the young girl reach under my head gathering all the fine long strands of my hair,

And letting them fall.

I listen to her test the water on her hand.

“It’s just right,” I say.

The wet warmth slides down my scalp.

Gentle strokes at my hairline make sure all the strands are wet.

A bubbly squirt fills her hand and I close my eyes,

A small well of tears unexpectedly comes.

I am pulled right back to that leggy nine years old,

where it was just you and me, Mom;

laying on that Formica counter

feeling your cotton blouse drape across my cheek,

and tender hands full of love.

How I wish I could be nine again.


My beautiful mother, Nancy and I


Life came full circle recently, with my granddaughter Miller and I playing hairdresser. I’m so thankful to have passed this memory on. Perhaps it will bring me back to them one day, when I am gone :)

©cathystenquist





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2 Comments


How beautiful! You are a gifted writer. A memory I shared with my mother but had forgotten. Thank you for this sweet story! ❤️

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Replying to

Dear Rosie, Thank you so very much for your kindness. This is definitely one of my most precious memories. I am working on a book about grief and gratitude in processing my mothers passing. It has been nice to remember some of these events. Hope you and John ae doing well. Cathy

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