The year was 1969, and my son, Frank Davis - Little Frank - needed a simple haircut. What is hair anyway? Hair is “any numerous fine flexible keratinized filements that grow from beneath the skin of a manmmal or from the head of a person.” A haircut is an act of cutting the hair into a shape or style. It was 41 years ago, and I needed to have Little Frank’s hair cut with real hair clippers. I took him to the barber, Mr. Bobby Thompson, down in the shopping center near our home. Bobby was a grade above me in school, and he sat by me in my English class at Starkville HIgh School. We all loved Bobby. He was gentle and made haircutting a fun experience for my two year old son.
I remember telling Little Frank, “Oh, we shall have so much fun, and I just bet Bobby will give you a sucker or two! He was excited, and we got into my car and headed a block or two away from home. It was to be his first haircut. All three of our children, Little Frank, McReynolds, and Elizabeth were born with not a single hair on their heads, and it took them of two or three years for each one of them to grow a head full of hair. I use to take Scotch tape and tape a pink bow on Elizabeth’s bald head so that she resembled a daughter rather than a son. Finally after two or three years they each grew hair, and we were excited to go for the first time and have a “real haircut” from a “real barber” with real hairclippers and have a gold smock put over his shoulders. It had taken us a long two years for him to grow real hair.
There are so many fun hair expressions, such as “Let one’s hair down,” which is to release one’s hair from the style where it is secured against the head or tied back. It means to behave unconventionally. We have all heard someone say, “I’m just going to let my hair down today!” Another expression is “not turn a hair,” which is used when one shows no sign of discomposure or exhaustion.
Little Frank was excited, and the thought of a sucker or two as a bribe seemed like fun was ahead of him. I said, “It is going to be exciting to get your very first haircut and get to sit up in a tall big chair that has a foot petal to push you up, up, up high into the air so that Mr. Bobby can get to your hair to cut it,” I said as we drove along. We parked and opened the door to this new experience waiting for us. “Good morning, Bobby, this is Little Frank, and we’ve come in to your shop to get a very first haircut. Say hello to him, Little Frank.” Bobby said, “Carole, he looks just like his daddy, Big Frank, doesn’t he? Gosh, he has his Daddy’s straight hair as well, agee?”
Bobby put the booster seat in the big seat and slowly put a gold hair smock around his tiny shoulders and snapped it in the back. Bobby looked sort of like a medical doctor with his own white barber’s shirt on, but he also looked a very professional barber. Out comes his black comb as he combs through Little Frank’s fine dark brown hair with a tiny tint of red in it, and this hair was so straight without a curl or even a single wave in it at all. “How do you think we should cut, it, Carole?” I said, “What about a plain old bowl cut or a crew cut?” Bobby said, “Whatever you think is best, Bobby, and you always do such a nice job cutting hair. We trust you, do we not, Little Frank?” He was smiling and having fun, and I had dreaded his not wanting to get his hair cut for the first time. He was my first child, and in a way, I too was experiecing every snip. So far, so good. We could hear the click as Bobby flipped on his clippers and then the buzz of the clippers themselves. Little Frank was having fun and said, “This tickles my neck, and this is fun.” “Whew”, I thought, “Today, we are going to make it getting his very first hair cut ever, and think of all the haircuts he will have in his lifetime. Thousands maybe?”
It is delightful to sit in the waiting chair watching your two year old’s first hair cut. After all, it took us twp years to grow this head full of hair. Suddenly you see your first born son sitting high in a barber’s chair, and he looks so small and so handsome and cute too. I remember thinking, “He is such a sweet son, and I am so proud of him this morning.” Have we all not been in barber shops where all one hears are screams as the barber and his tiny client both are struggling through the awful ordeal of simply getting a harcut? Everyone inside the shop wishes they were somewhere else. Most of the time, the adult clients just turn another page in a magazine as they wait their turn, counting the seconds until the kid in the chair quits crying and screaming at the top of his lungs. Tears are streaming down his cheeks. Finally the awful job is over, and the barber motions to his next client and says, “next, please.”
As I sat and observed, I also had my sketchpad to save these moments and one lock of hair from his head to save forever both in my heart and on my canvas when we got back home. Let’s enjoy this painting, which was later placed on a large stretched cotton canvas of 24X30 inches. I was in my upstairs attic art studio a few day ago and spotted it just begging and waiting to be shared with you, my viewer. My subject, my oldest child will turn 44 years old, July 14, 2011. I now ask myself, “Where in the world have all these years gone by so quickly?” As I look at his portraits since there are really three portraits - three faces in one - on this large canvas, I realize that I now within paint itself have this day kept forever to enjoy and love once again and to share with you, too.
We shall read these portraits as we read a sentence in a book from left to right. Bobby Thompson’s two hands are shown with his clippers ready and his one black comb in hand to begin his haircut. Can you hear the buzzing and the almost silent humming? I can hear it now. You just listen, and you will, too.
The picture then shows Bobby and Little Frank as Bobby gave his chair a push from his knee and the barber’s chair automatically began to lower itself down to the floor. Little Frank slips off the barber’s apron, and the first thing he did was to plop on his Daddy’s favorite tennis cap which was way too large for his little head. It was Big Frank’s old tennis hat rather than a cap, and it fell right over his ears and into his newest haircut. Look at his his little overall jumper I had dressed him in that day. It looks almost like vintage clothing that would be way out of style today.
We got back home, and the very first thing that Little Frank wanted to do was put on his G.I. Joe jumpsuit. It was green with his name on it. He had a smirky smile on his lips and asked, “May I go outside and play now?” I said, “Sure, Little Frank, and I am so proud of you. You were such a sweet boy down at the barbershop today. Your hair makes you look so grown-up, and you did so well.” By the way, Bobby Thompson passed away several years ago. He had heart problems, and died too young. We all loved and miss Bobby today. My old English classmate at good ‘ole SHS was indeed a sweet gentleman!
I used a green background and made the circles of green, browns, golds, and reddish colors as if the entire background was covered with snips and bits and pieces of hair that fell on the floor beside the Bobby and Little Frank. Three faces of the same little subject, my first born child, my son, sitting in the Bobby’s barber chair waiting with anticipation for that first “clip” of that first piece of straight hair and the buzzing around his ears. His face is depicted as he got down and out of the chair and plopped on his Daddy’s old tennis hat in dark brown overalls and white and brown plaid short-sleeved shirt. His face is turned sideways with his G.I. Joe outfit on with his cloth name tag with his name on it. Three faces and the same two year old son all in the events of one day. Instead of Momma, he has always called me simply Carole because this is what “Big Frank” and my dad always called me. He was an only child for seven years until the birth of his brother, McReynolds. McReynolds calls me Mom, and Elizabeth calls me Momma. In a way, I am three mothers to three different children. Yet they are all my beloved, wonderful, and now grown children with families of their own. I have three granddaughters and two grandsons who all get haircuts every few weeks, too.
Today, I relive with you this day 41 years ago through this portrait of three faces of the same little subject, and I can hear the old back screen door slamming as my son goes skipping down the steps and heads down to Bobby Thompson’s barber shop, and I can hear myself saying “Hey, Little Frank, let’s go and get you a first time haircut!”
Frank Marvin Davis, Jr. is a father to a daughter, Jordan Elizabeth Davis, age 11, and a son, Patrick Spencer Davis, age 9. He and his wife, Carla Long Davis live in Saltillo.