This morning, as I attempted to style my in flux hair (I’m growing out a pixie cut which if you’ve ever done this, you know is not fun. There are a lot of bad stages until you get somewhere resembling a bob)…Anyway, I have been pulling my shaggy bangs to the side with a little bobby pin and as I slid the pin in today, I had this flash of my great aunt Ellie. She always wore her hair in a short, blunt bob, with a side part, that was barely chin length. Mostly she let the front sort of swoop over her eye, but sometimes she too pinned her silvery hair with a little bobby pin.

I hadn’t thought of Ellie for quite some time. We had been somewhat close when I was younger, though at some point she and my uncle and one of their daughters (they had three, the two eldest both had families and moved to different states, while their youngest, who has special needs remained with them) found solace in the John Birch Society at which point they treated my family like we were all heathens. I didn’t see Ellie much after that and she’s since passed away.

I used to enjoy talking to her, and now wish I could recall more of our conversations because in some ways we now share an unexpected similarity in our life journey. She worked outside the house until the youngest was born and required 24/7 care and attention. I’m not sure what kind of work she did exactly but I know she worked in an office tower in Century City and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie of her office place. She delighted in going out for the occasional after work drink or dinner with colleagues and window shopping in nearby Beverly Hills.

As a teen I thought it sounded somewhat glamorous. I caught glimpses of her happiness, of the part of her life that was just hers. She had a wonderfully rich, hearty laugh that couldn’t help but make you share in her delight, but I could tell that she missed this part of her life when she gave it up to take care of their daughter. I didn’t understand all of the implications of her life until I became a parent too.

Her partnership was a little different than mine. I am blessed to have a partner in every sense of the word. My great uncle was a former college and professional football star, and his achievements and notoriety sort of overshadowed their lives, as living in glory days often does. It was natural that my great aunt would give up her career. It was also a much different climate for women in terms of expectation and choice. She did a remarkable job raising their daughter. In a time when the common move would be to put her in a home of some sort, my aunt sent her to school and home schooled her. She was encouraged to pursue dreams and they both funneled most of their energies into facilitating things like her love of horses, tennis and Ilie Nastase. She grew to exceed expectations, but still had limitations that would keep her bound to them, to him now.

But when I recall Ellie now, I realize that there was an underlying resentment. She always seemed a bit angry and often criticized her sister, my paternal grandmother, who led a more unencumbered life. I’m certain she never had someone to talk to about any of her feelings and fears and hopes. She never had the opportunity to find a release or solace in her fate. I wish my present self could have known her past self. We would have a lot to share.

Funny, all of this from just slipping a bobby pin into my shaggy bangs…

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