Private Goodwin by P.J.
I sat down in the big oak "spinner "chair behind dads desk in the den.
The recently framed senior pic of me in my lacrosse uniform with my huge copper colored mane sitting on the corner of the desk top. WOW, 4 years had passed in a flash.
Sorry, I should introduce myself. I'm Timothy Patrick Goodwin, oldest of the 4 Goodwin boys. Son of General Goodwin, currently in charge of recruiting at Ft. Drum.
I thought back to 4 years ago, sitting in this same room with Dad, laying out my plan for the future and seeing what he'd say. We'd just moved here for his new appointment at Ft. Drum. The latest in series of moves as Army families are wont to do. I'd just finished 8th grade at our last school. With the hub bub of moving, none of us 4 Goodwin boys had had haircuts in a couple of months. Dad announced that he'd found an off base barbershop and we were all going to get cleaned up. I asked if he could wait a bit and come talk with me for a minute in the den. He said sure, come on, what's up?
I closed the door, and we both sat down. I said, I have something to discuss and I want to see what you think. But before I go into that, I have a question. O.K. shoot Sport, dad said, what's the question. Well, I started, how come you don't keep us boys shaved down like most of the kids who's dads work with you? I've always wondered why you let us pretty much get our hair cut however we want?
Dad laughed, well Tim, as you know I was an Army brat. Back when I was young and we were bouncing base to base, your granddad always insisted I "look sharp" as he says it. He always dragged me into the base barbershop every 3 or 4 weeks for a flat top in the winter, and a razor shaved high and tight in the summer, just like his. It was the 70's, and kids just didn't wear their hair that short. So that, in combination with our dark copper colored red hair, about the shade of a well worn penny as you well know, guaranteed me no end of teasing and ridicule at school.
I vowed a long time ago, if I ever had kids, boys, I would never put them through that. When you boys came along, I also vowed that I was around jar heads all day long, the last thing I wanted to do was come home to 4 more every night. Your mom and I felt that having this unique red hair color was going to be trouble enough for you boys as we moved you from school to school. We wanted you to be as comfortable in your own skins as possible. So that's pretty much why you boys get to choose your style, within limits remember. You can't have your ears completely covered, or anything down past the bottom of a dress shirt collar, and neat and clean. That's kind of why I wanted d to talk to you today I said.
Dad smiled, your grand dad still gripes every time we see him about how "shaggy" me and you boys are. I know I said and laughed. But you either ignore him or defend your choice to him every time.
Ah, that explained the fact that I could sport a longish business type cut, a bit of hair on the collar, and just a bit over the ears, long bangs brushed to the side, slicked back when the occasion called for it. My younger brothers had an assortment of cuts, Kilian, having the same cut as dad, a longish crew cut, 1 1/2 on the sides and back, and a couple of fingers long of top, enough to play around and style. Garrett, the next in line, sported a short Emo cut, not really in style any more but he was loathe to submit to something different yet. And finally Liam, who was the only Goodwin boy who didn't have the trademark copper colored locks. His was what s called strawberry blonde, fading to a lighter blonde in the summer. He had a cut similar to mine. None of us looked even remotely military.
So Tim, dad said, we wanted you boys to be able to make friends and focus on you school work. By and large, that's worked well. You're a hardworking focused kid who doesn't seem to have much of a problem with school or life in general for that matter, dad said. So, what's up, he inquired.
Well, you know I've always wanted to be a doctor right, I started with. Yes, sure, you always talk about it, dad said. Well, I know you and mom can't afford to put me through all the schooling necessary for that.
If I keep my grades high, stay out of trouble, no drugs, drinking, and so on, and stay with lacrosse, there's one thing I've always wanted to do. My little bit of teen rebellion. O.K. Tim, you've always impressed me, your focused, and determined to get what you want. You're a great athlete too. Look what your walking in to at this new school, a position on the varsity lacrosse team, as a freshman! I've always been impressed with you son, dad said with a smile.
Well, one thing I've always wanted is to let my hair grow out. Dads face clouded. What do you mean exactly by grow out son, He inquired. By grand dads standards, you're already a shaggy dog. Well, this is my one chance to "rebel" as it were, dad. I promise, no tattoos or piercings, but as long as I keep grades high, take all the A.P. classes I can, and stay with Lacrosse and my music, can I? I'd like to try, thru High school graduation, all 4 years? I might not like it and get it cut anyways, who knows? There, I'd said it, wow, now what was pops going to say? The room went quite for a minute. If I screw up I continued, you can exact any punishment you want, the long hair can go. Dad sat quietly for a minute. Really Tim, That's what you want, dad said with raised eyebrows. Dad, you already take a lot of flak from the guys on base about how we look now. I realize it'll only get worse. I know I'm asking a lot but with my future plans, this might be the only opportunity I have for a long time, if ever again.
Dads reply somewhat surprised me. He was always stern but fair with us. Never heavy handed. This was pushing the limits of his sensibility though , I knew. Well Tim, I can't really refuse, when you lay things out like you have. I still have the same rules though, keep it clean and neat at all times. I reserve the right to take you and get it cut if you don't. It'll be a challenge with playing lacrosse too.
Did I just hear what I thought I just heard? Did dad just say yes? We both stood up, thanks dad I said, giving him a hug, he fluffed my shaggy bangs and said, I suppose this means you're not going with us to try out the new barber shop today. Well, yes, sir, if that's O.K.? I asked quietly, can I start now? And can we keep this talk to ourselves too I asked, except mom of course. Well, your brothers are going to wonder what's up so at some point we'll have to talk with them but otherwise sure. I'm not sure I'm ready for 4 girls just yet, dad said with a smile.
And so it began. I was soon known at school as Copper, not Tim, for my long wavy locks. It took forever to get them long enough to tie back, I owned a serious collection of hats that I put to good use for the awkward stage.
Dad, of course, had put up with no end of having to defend me to his peers at the base, especially when we had a base function to attend as a family. He'd get teased about his "daughter" and just look at me and smile. Knowing there was a means to an end.
The 4 years had flown. I'd excelled at school academically and athletically, and been able to keep up with my guitar lessons and playing in my sparse spare time. By junior year I'd reached my goal, my hair was almost to my shoulder blades, pretty much one length, wavy, full and thick, the girls all loved it, some of the guys too, I'd inspired a few to also grow theirs out. The biggest challenge had come last year, when the Lacrosse coach had suggested the team shave their heads for States that year. I almost had a heart attack. I was never fond of the varsity coach, but this brought me to the point of wanting to quit. I was team captain, and one of the best players on the team. The coach was a shaved head, MPB guy. I always felt the coach had it in for me because there was no requirement for hair length at our school. I told the coach I'd quit if he made it mandatory, and once the rest of the team heard that, they actually got behind me and said they'd walk too, only a couple of the underclass men sided with the coach. Dad and I met with him privately, dad threatened to go to the local media with the Whole story if the coach insisted. I had thought dad would push me the other way after all the trouble I'd caused him, time to be a team player, do what's good for the team, blah, blah, blah. But no, he defended me. The coach relented, we went on to win our first State championship, and I was now known to all as Copper Goodwin.
The teasing for me had been short lived, more about the color than the length.
Now here I was 4 years later, graduation was last Friday, the big party yesterday, and today, Sunday, was the last day I'll be spending at home for a good long while. I was ready , with a certain amount of trepidation, to embark on the next phase of my life. All the papers had been signed, the financial aid package worked out, and my parents blessing received. I'd told mom to send dad in to the den when he came down stairs.
The door opened, and dad strolled in. What's up bud, mom said to meet you in here. I asked dad to sit for a minute. The silver wrapped package sitting on the center of the blotter on the desk. What's this he asked, did you forget to open this yesterday? No, dad, this is a gift from me to you. Do you remember our talk, in here 4 years ago, I asked. Running my hands through my thick, flowing, wavy mane? Dad smiled, yes, I remember it well, why. Well, I have to report for basic training tomorrow at the base to start get it out of the way before classes start in the fall. All part of the ROTC program right? Yes, we've talked about almost nothing else for the last few weeks. Tim, but what's this all about, he asked, waving at the package.
Well, I said, open it and see. Dad carefully and slowly unwrapped the box, then opened it. HIs eyebrows went up in surprise, looking from me to the contents of the box. Then he laughed and said, you're joking right? I said, no, I was very serious. Look dad, you've been whole heartedly supportive of me having this mane I said, running my hand s through it again. I've seen firsthand the amount of crap you've taken at my expense. Both from your peers at the base, and our family, especially grand dad, every time he comes to visit I sleep with one eye open. He's always threatening to chop it all off in the middle of the night. Dad laughed, well true Tim, but I still don't understand, why the clippers and cape, he said nodding to the box. I thought you'd like to be the one to give me my induction cut, just you and me, right here, right now. You know what a control freak I am, and I'd rather you did it than the base barber, I'll be getting to know him quite well in the coming months.
I don't know what to say, dad replied. I guess I can, but you know I've never cut your hair before, or any of your brothers either, for that matter. Dad, you can't screw it up, you basically shave it all off, how hard can it be, I said with a smirk.
I'd already rolled up the oriental rug, and had a broom and dustpan over in the corner for the clean up.
Let me sit there, I nodded to his chair. I unwrapped the black and white stripped cape and handed it to him.
He draped it over me, I pulled my hair into a pony tail, hand held it out of the way so he could snap the cape tightly around my neck.
You know Tim, he said, I have to admit I'm a bit jealous. You have the mop I always wanted as a teenager. I'm amazed at the thickness and waviness of this, he said, running his hand over my plush locks. I always secretly envied you when grand dad teased you and you just brushed it off, saying that you just had very supportive understanding parents. You've achieved every goal you set out to do, and I've no doubt that will continue. You're a very self assured young man.
He picked up the new Oster 76 clippers,(gotta love Amazon right) oiled 'em up, plugged 'em in, and flicked them on and off a couple of times. Well he said, I don't suppose you've heard that sound in awhile have you. I smirked back, nope, but I imagine I'll be hearing it a lot for the next 8 years or so, what with undergrad, and med school. You O.K. with having a recruit in the house for the rest of the day, I asked.
He got a bit teary eyed, and replied, yes, I suppose I can put up with it, as long as it's you.
O.K., let's get started I said. I handed dad my phone, here I said, take a series of before pic's , all angles, I want this documented for posterity sake. Dad smiled, clicked away, and handed the phone back to me. I want during pic's too I said, laying it on the desk. O.K. son he said with a sigh. You sure you don't want grand dad to do this, he'd enjoy it much more that I am , I'm sure. My eyebrows shot up, nope, that s precisely why I want you to do it, it's closure for us. You can brag to the guys on base that you finally got your revenge. I brushed my hair back, and pulled it into a pony tail. I haven't decided what I'm doing with it yet I said, so just cut the pony tail off with the clippers to start. Ay, Ay, sir dad replied.
The clippers roared to life, he held up the huge tail, and plunged the clippers in between the ponytail holder and my head. It took him a minute or two to finally cut through the thick bulky mane but finally he held it triumphantly up in front of me. The clippers clicked off again. I took it from him and held it up, my eyes misting, this was it, the next phase of my life starting. What did the great authors call it, childhoods end?
Wow, that's a lot of hair, dad exclaimed. I felt my bangs slide down over my face, the shortest they'd been in a few years. I shook my head, laying the huge tail on the desk. Pic's please! Dad obliged and snapped off a couple of shots. O.K., now how do I do this, he asked, laughing. You know, I've watched this done a million times, you think I'd know what to do, he said.
Start at the back I said. He flipped the clippers on again. I felt the cold steel touch down at my nape, then slowly slide up the back of my head. Chin to chest, I watched the first copper colored locks land in my lap, quickly followed by a torrent of them. the feeling was surreal. Wow, was all I could think. The purring clippers plowed up past my crown and exited. Dad touched down at my nape again and repeated the pass. Another torrent of hair into my lap, the back of my head starting to feel different, lighter, and cooler. My God son, I never in a million years thought I'd' see your naked scalp. and Never ever, thought I'd be the one to expose it. Even buzzed this close, your hair is so thick you still see the copper colored shadow. The guardless clippers made their way around first to the left side, cleaning off all the patiently grown hanks of thick hair, one pass at a time. The severed locks almost thudding down into the growing pile in my lap. Dad folding my ear down to make sure he cleaned off every last trace of it. The feeling was wild, like getting a massage on your head. The clippers were getting warm now too. The blades no longer cold as they touched down on my scalp. Dad was going slower that a barber would, of course, this being his first time and all, so that made the sensation last longer. He moved to the other side and repeated the moves. Now an incredible pile of hair was accumulating in my lap. I'd flipped my long bangs to the side. Wow son, you look quite the site, dad said smiling. Skinned sides and back and huge long bangs an top. Pic's please ! I said again. Oh, yeah, sorry, dad said.
He moved around in front of me, giving a heavy sigh. Harder than you thought dad, I inquired. You know Tim, I've half envied, and half been frustrated with this mop for the last 4 years. But when I make these last few passes across the top of your head, you're no longer a kid.
He hesitated a bit, slid his hand under a huge hank of my long bangs, and raised the clippers to my fore head. With a gentle push, the clippers slid effortlessly back to my crown, the huge hank of hair coming away in his hand as they moved back. He let it fall slowly into my lap. Shining copper locks forever severed.
Good God boy, you've got the thickest hair I've ever seen. Slowly, deliberately, he made the last couple of passes, cleaning every last bit of hair off my head. The induction cut was complete. I had a lap full of my pride and joy. We looked at each other both misty eyed. Clippers shut off, dad rubbed his hands over my freshly sheared noggin. Never thought I'd see this day, he said quietly. He grabbed the last item in the box, a small brush, and brushed me down. It felt so weird, the bristles touching my almost bare scalp. My head was very light too, and almost cold. He uncapped me, carefully holding all the cut hair in the cape, and let it spill into the waste basket next to the desk. I got up, and rubbed my head for the first time. I almost swooned. God, that felt so strange, stubble, where only minutes before there was an 18" long mane. Reflexively I went to pull that thick mane back behind my shoulders, and there was nothing there! Dad said, you O.K.? I said, yeah, I guess, rubbing my clipped pate again, then shaking my head. Dad said, don't worry, you'll soon get used to it, and it's not forever, you'll eventually be allowed to grow it back a bit he said, running his hand over the short thick top thatch on his own head. I smiled, thank you dad, this made what's designed to be an identity stripping, humiliating experience into something I'll remember fondly. Now that's something I never expected one of my boys to be saying. Now that I have the clippers, maybe I'll start on your brothers too. Oh, boy, I thought, won't they be thrilled. I'd give that some thought I said out loud, I'm not sure your ready to be the family barber just yet. Induction cuts still aren't popular at school you know!
I quickly swept up the floor, replaced the rug, and we both exited the den. I walked into the kitchen, the rest of the family , including nana and grand dad sitting around the big kitchen table. Before I could say anything to the stunned faces gawking open mouthed at me, dad walked up behind me, placed his hands on my shoulders and said, may I present Private Timothy Patrick Goodwin, new recruit?