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Let me introduce you to my new hairdresser, Eleanor Rose.

I call her "El."

She calls me "Nana."

El is new to the hairdressing profession, but what she lacks in experience, she makes up for with style and flair and a major, take-charge personality.

"Turn your head this way," she orders. So I turn to the right.

"No!" she shouts, snapping my chin to the left. "This way!"

It's her way or the highway. I just say, "Yes, ma'am" and try hard to do as I'm told.

El is my granddaughter. She is 4 years old, going on "ready to rule the world." Hazel green eyes. Honey brown hair. A smile that lights me up like Christmas.

I wish you could see her.

We're taking turns doing each other's hair. I took the first turn. While El was entranced in a My Little Pony video, I brushed the tangles from her waist-length curls, taking care not to yank on the snarls. Then I pulled it back from her face, gathered it up in a ponytail and fastened it with a pink elastic band. Perfection.

When the video ended, El snapped back to attention.

"My turn!" she said, snatching the hairbrush from my hand.

She climbed up on the sofa and stood by my shoulder, studying the top of my head.

"Nana," she said, wrinkling her nose, "your hair is hard!"

"It's just hairspray," I said. "It keeps my bangs out of my eyes."

"But, Nana," she said, looking as if she'd just discovered I had a really bad case of head lice, "it makes your hair hard!"

Wielding the hair brush like a machete, she brushed away the hairspray, leaving a few wisps of what had once been my bangs.

"That's better," she said. "Now you need a haircut."

I gave her a look.

"El?" I said. "No scissors, OK? We're just pretending, right?"

"Right," she said. "I'll use these." She held up two fingers, snapping them together, her own personal pair of pretend hair cutting shears.

Then she pretended to lop off every last inch of my not-pretend shoulder-length hair.

It felt surprisingly good. At some point, I began to nod off while El kept whacking away.

Half asleep, I drifted back to a place and time when I was El's age, playing hairdresser to my grandmother and my mother and any of my aunts who showed up for Sunday dinner.

They'd sit on the porch in summer or by the stove in winter, gossiping and arguing about everything and nothing, while I worked my magic from chair to chair with a hairbrush and high hopes of transforming them all into beauty queens.

My mother and my aunts were picky. No matter how great a job I did, they always had to redo it.

Not my grandmother. I could make her look like a cat that had just been flea-dipped and she'd smile and give me a dime.

Not everyone found her easy to please. But I did. And it made me want to give her my best.

My reverie ended with a whack on my head from a hairbrush.

"Sit up, Nana," El said. "I want to curl the back of your hair."

"You're curling my hair?"

"Yes!" she said, "and you're going to love it!"

Her curling technique involved twisting clumps of my hair into coils and tying them in knots.

It was not exactly the kind of look I was hoping for, but I decided to let her finish.

After a few more twists and coils and knots, she grabbed my hand and dragged me to the bathroom mirror.

"Do you like it?" El asked.

I stood for a moment, staring at the mirror. I looked like a cat that had just been flea-dipped.

"Yes," I said, "I, uh, love it."

She laughed and took my hand. "No, Nana, you look crazy! Come on, I'll fix it."

So she uncoiled the knots and brushed out the twists and kissed the top of my head.

She gave me her best.

And I gave her a dollar.

Maybe next time, I'll let her dye my roots.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950. Email: randallbay@earthlink.net

Style on 07/09/2019

Print Headline: Hairdresser starts career on Nana's hair

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