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Apparently, what seems to impress my children the most is the hair.

Yes, it was impressive hair. But those were "hair" days, so maybe I didn't really appreciate the hair at the time. I would have bet they'd be more taken by that sweet, sweet "Smokey and the Bandit" moustache or the "I see your plaid and raise you some PLAID!" sports jacket (because, thank God it wasn't a suit. That they know of.). But, nope, they seem to linger on the hair.

My children's chance to offer their views on my hair circa the late 1970s came along because my sister, in a move that is either incredibly sweet and loving or some next-level, passive-aggressive even-getting, put together a photo album of my childhood and adolescence and sent it to me for my birthday.

Definitely a gift that keeps giving. For my children.

Thanks to the trove of photos my mother kept (along with every Newsweek since Jimmy Carter was president and VHS tapes of the "Today" show dating back to the Hugh Downs-Barbara Walters era), my kids now know that velvet bow ties were a thing and tuxedos did, at one point in our nation's history, come in forest green.

Thankfully. that long national nightmare is over.

But of all the objects of their attention (and some derision), the hair seems to draw the most comment.

To be honest, those were heady days. And by heady, I mean, "heady of hair." What we lacked in style (Seriously? Velour leisure suits?), we made up for in hair styles.

Big hair. Lots of hair. Hair that swept down over one eye (hey, who needs to see to the right, anyway?) or feathered back like the wings of angels. Or "Charlie's Angels." And that was hair of the guys. Thankfully there weren't a lot of pictures of the girls, because they were too busy teasing their hair until it screamed before applying an ozone-killing layer of spray.

We were hot. Literally. We were very hot, mostly because we were walking around with what amounted to fur coats on our heads and shirts made of fabric not found in nature and designed to serve as a canvas for a shot of the skyline of New York, but not to breathe.

Now, I mention this not (just) to get a jump on the smart-aleck remarks or to serve as a lead-in to the reality that, at its worst, fashion isn't about looking good as much as it is looking like everyone else (I mean, come on. I weighed a buck-forty and I was 6-2. For most of my adolescence, I looked a dark-topped Q-tip.).

I mention it because I'm not sure if my children are more surprised by the length, breadth and volume of my hair (lots of conditioner, and lift from underneath while blow-drying) or the idea that the person sporting that tonsorial extravaganza is their (as of last Saturday) almost 60-year-old, dad-joke telling (new restaurant on the moon: great food, no atmosphere), very gray-haired father.

It's a bit of a cliché to say we are all bit players in the lives of others. To my kids, I'm playing the part of Dad, and I've been at it longer than Ellen Pompeo has been on "Grey's Anatomy." So while that hair is something to behold, to my kids, the most amazing thing may be that the person who constantly "reminded" them to change the oil and check the air in the tires was once a first-time driver, leaning on the front fender of his dad's auto with confidence, like he had this.

Thankfully the picture doesn't show the easily two-foot-long scratch on the side of the car, courtesy of not really being all that sure just how close you could get to a mailbox, but finding out, yeah, not THAT close.

And there's the photo of the person who changed their diapers. Except in the photo he's so young he's wearing a pair himself, and he's sitting in the front yard in bright Florida sunshine, without sunscreen, drinking out of a garden hose. And yet he survived.

So yes, I am a bit player in their lives. It's just that, as the photos show, my role has changed over years. And I've sort of been the star in my own show.

OK, maybe not me. Actually the real star of the show was that hair.

Commentary on 02/08/2019

Print Headline: Combing through the past

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