Shaving is a rite of passage for boys, and that’s a fact. Long before they ever put blade to face they think about it ~ a lot. Such was the case with my brother, Buddy. He was so obsessed with shaving that he practiced it constantly, with toys, or butter knives, or empty razors, although four years old did seem a little young! Whenever Daddy shaved, Buddy was at his elbow. He would watch as Daddy soaped up the shaving brush and swirled the bubbles onto his stubbly face. His eyes followed every razor stroke. So, when Momma found him sitting underneath the kitchen table with Daddy’s razor in his hands, it came as no surprise. In fact, Buddy began to get his hands on the razor so often that Momma had to hide it…in the cabinet, under the towels, in a box, in a bag, on a shelf – lots of ingenious places…but Buddy seemed to home in on it sooner or later with his four year-old razor radar.
I considered myself a bystander in the game of hide and seek that Momma and Buddy played daily, and I watched with increasing amusement as one tried to outsmart the other. Momma would hide the razor and Buddy would pretend not to be watching. Buddy would disappear for a few minutes and Momma would find him behind the door with the razor in one sneaky paw and a soapy shaving brush in the other. So, when I found Buddy under the dining room table that Sunday morning with the shaving brush, the razor and the shaving mirror, I sat back to watch in detached amusement, waiting for Momma to come and drag him out by his chubby little legs.
Momma was in the garden picking beans. I could see her from the window in the little garden plot between the outhouse and the crape myrtle trees. She liked to work in the garden early in the morning while the dew was still on the morning glories, she said, and before the sun got hot. We usually crawled out of bed and dragged our blankets into the living room to watch cartoons. But today, I was sitting on the floor by the dining room window and Buddy was studying his butt-smooth cheeks in the mirror. This was way better than cartoons. I expected Momma to perk up ay any second, like a rabbit sensing impending disaster, and bolt for the door, but she continued to kneel in the garden, her hands busy in the bean vines.
Meanwhile, Buddy soaped up the brush with a satisfied look on his face. He puckered his mouth up to mimic Daddy as he studied his chin. Momma stood up in the garden and stretched. “She’s got him now!” I thought to myself, but she just moved the plastic pail a few feet, and went back to her work.
When I looked back at Buddy he was staring intently into the mirror, poised to deliver the soap, but the satisfied look had now been replaced by a frustrated scowl. He rubbed his cheek, he lifted his chin, he turned his face this way and that. It never occurred to me that he was looking for real hair to shave until he suddenly reached up and soaped up both eyebrows. I watched in stunned silence. With dexterity belying his age and lack of experience, he deftly removed each one in turn and sat back to admire his work. Then he looked at me and giggled, thoroughly delighted with himself!
Momma coughed in the garden. Our heads popped up, noses against the windowpane. She picked up the red, plastic bean pail as Buddy scrambled out from under the table and ran to return the shaving implements to their former hiding place. The screen door creaked open just as he finished drying his face. Momma set the beans on the kitchen counter. Buddy dropped the towel, and in a flash seated himself in front of the television to watch Roger Ramjet. I walked around to get a better look. His forehead came all the way down to his eyelids!
I was still staring when Momma called us to the table for breakfast. We climbed into our chairs and Momma carried in hot biscuits with fresh butter, blackberry Jelly and scrambled eggs gathered from the fat red chickens that roamed around our small farm. She set the food on the checkered tablecloth and I got picked to bless the food. We bowed our heads. I could see flecks of soap and eyebrows glistening against the linoleum floor: “God bless Daddy and Momma …and, oh LORD, bless Buddy! Thank you for our food. Amen.”
“Amen!” said Buddy grinning.
“Amen!” Momma echoed and looked at me with a question half in and half out of her mouth; but Buddy interrupted her train of thought, dumping half the jar of blackberry jelly in his plate!
“Hey!” Momma raised her voice, “Put that back in the jar! You have to save some jelly for the rest of us!”
Buddy scarfed down a biscuit, getting jelly all over his face. Momma looked at him for a long moment. “Here it comes!” I thought.
“You feel okay, Honey?” she asked.
“Uh-huh!” Buddy nodded as he licked the jelly off his fingers, “Yep! Yep!” Buddy had recently adopted the annoying habit of saying almost everything more than once.
“Reach over there and feel his head. See if he feels hot,” she instructed me. I reached over and put my hand on his now naked brow. “He feels fine, I said.” She studied him for a moment, a curious look on her face. Any minute, I thought, she’s gonna notice. I waited. “Better keep an eye on him anyway, she said, “He don’t look quite right.” And she gathered the dishes.
Buddy looked at me and smiled. “I shaved!” he said smugly, barely able to contain his delight. “Yeah,” I said, “I can see that. When Momma figures out what you did, she’s gonna wear you out!”
“Nope!” he retorted, “Nope, nope, nope! She won’t”
“Wrong, Purple Lips!” I warned, “She’s going to jerk a knot in your tail for sure!”
“Nope! Nope!” Buddy climbed down from his chair an went back to Rodger Ramjet, mouth puckered up to make spaceship noises.
“Y’all go get your shoes now,” Momma called from the dining room, “We’re gonna take these beans out to Grandma Merck’s house. Get dressed now and put on something nice so you’ll look real pretty. She’s liable to have company!”
Momma got out our Sunday clothes and helped us get dressed. She buttoned Buddy’s shirt and rolled up his sleeves. “Don’t you get this dirty,” she said, “You have to wear this again tomorrow!” She wet the comb and combed his hair, parting it on the right and arranging it neatly.
“Hmmm,” she mused , eyeing him again. “Come here and let me part it on the other side, it don’t look quite right.”
She was right about THAT, I thought! She parted Buddy’s hair on the left side, then she tried the the middle, and then, with a flourish, she combing it straight back. Finally, she combed it straight down, which did make his forehead look a little more normal, but Buddy would have none of it!
“Stop! Stop!” he fussed, messing his hair up with both hands. “
Frustrated, Momma handed him the comb. “Here, you do it. I don’t have time to mess with you! Just comb it however you want it. I told your Daddy the barber cut it too short. Next time, I’ll just cut it myself.
“Nope!” chirped Buddy. “ Nope! I’ll just cut it myself,” he smiled.
Momma’s eyes went to the scissors on top of the mantle above the wood stove, and back to Buddy. “That’s okay, Honey,” she said, “You’re too little to mess with the scissors. They are too sharp and you might hurt yourself.” Then she went in to the kitchen. The sound of water running muffled Buddy’s reply.
“I’ll just cut it myself,” he nodded, his uncomplicated grin lighting up his happy, hairless face.
“Wrong again,” I predicted, “soon as Momma figures out where your eyebrows went she’ll most likely duct tape Daddy’s razor to the ceiling and nail your feet to the floor! You better hope Daddy doesn’t find out!”
“He won’t,” Buddy shook his head with confidence. “Nope.”
“What do you mean, he won’t? You think he won’t notice two eyebrows stuck in his razor in the morning? He will look at his brand new razor just like he does every morning, only this time it’ll have eyebrows!”
The sheer panic in his eyes took me by surprise. His bottom lip quivered and his eyes began to fill with tears. I could see where this was going. Buddy was a pain in the butt most of the time. Why Momma thought we needed a baby brother, I will never know. He was the most aggravating person in our family, maybe in the whole world, and possibly the entire solar system. And I had no idea how to help him without getting us both caught in the process. We needed a plan.
“Run get your ‘boggin!” I told him. Buddy ran to the closet and came back with the red knit cap he’d gotten for Christmas. We tugged it over his head and down to his eyes. “There!” I said, “Now you can’t tell your eyebrows are gone!”
“Now you can’t tell!” Buddy smiled. Then his smile turned upside down. “It’s hot!” he complained.
“Not as hot as your hind end’s gonna be when Daddy finds out you got his razor again!” I reminded him.
Momma came into the room carrying the beans. “What are you doing with your ‘boggin on?” she asked Buddy.
“His head’s cold!” I said.
“Yep! Yep!” said Buddy, “head’s cold. “Brrrrr.” And he threw in a little shiver for good measure.
“I knew you looked sick!” she exclaimed, “Here, let Momma feel your head!”
“I’ll feel it Momma,” I offered, covering the area above his eyes with my hands, “He’s cold.”
Momma shrugged her shoulders again. “Let’s hurry, so we can get back before Daddy gets home from work. Yikes! I thought, remembering that the razor and Buddy’s eyebrows were still lying on the floor under a towel. I would have to get them cleaned up before we left!
As Momma bundled us into the car for the ride to Grandma’s house, I put plan A into action.
“I forgot my book, Momma. I want to take it Grandma’s house. I’ll be right back!”
“Your book’s in the back seat where you left it,” she observed. “Get in the car, we’re gonna be late!”
I froze. Then the perfect solution brightened in my mind like the sun coming up in the morning! Uh, no…my new Bible,” I said. “We got Bibles in school yesterday. I want to read the Bible. I forgot it. I’ll be right back!” I called over my shoulder.
Momma looked surprised, but she didn’t say a word. At six years old, I had barely gotten past Dick and Jane where reading was concerned! Nevertheless, people in the South rarely argued about the Bible (God working in mysterious ways and all). I rushed into the house, threw the towel in the hamper, rinsed Buddy’s eyebrows out of the razor and watched them circle the drain. The horn blew loudly. I snatched up the New Testament and bounded out of the house. “God Bless the Gideons!” I thought.
When I opened the car door, Momma was still studying Buddy as he sat staring down at the green beans in the pail in his lap. We were quiet for the rest of the ride. Momma was still eying Buddy in the rearview mirror when Grandma’s house came into view. Ho-ly Cow! Grandma was more than “liable” to have company! The whole front yard looked like a used car lot! All the aunts, uncles, and cousins were there, several neighbors and probably the Preacher! Keep your hat on, Stupid,” I whispered, “and maybe nobody will see the eyebrows you don’t have!” Momma parked under the oak trees on the bank beside the driveway.
“Buddy, you carry the beans in for Momma, Okay?” she crooned the way she always did when we were sick.
“Yep! Yep!’ he chirped, hauling the bucket out and stopping to pick up a handful of beans that spilled out into the grass.
We went into the house. People were milling around, eating biscuits and sweet tea, and laughing. Aunt Katie was the first to notice.
“Well, hey, Hon! Whatcha doing with that hat on in the summer time?” she asked, “Come give me a hug. Buddy took a few steps, and stopped. “It’s too hot for a hat, Sweetie. Here, let me take your boggin,” Aunt Katie said, and Buddy marched up to her with the pail full of gritty green beans. “I’ll put it on Grandma’s bed and you can get it when you’re ready to leave.”
“Yep!” agreed Buddy.
“Nope!” I said at the same time, shoving Buddy toward the kitchen. Aunt Katie looked confused. “His head is cold,” I explained.
“Why it’s warm as toast in here,” Aunt Katie argued, “Take it off for now, you’ll get too hot! You can always put it on if you go outside.”
“Nope! Nope! Head cold” Buddy chimed in.
“Yes, Sweetie,” Aunt Katie insisted, “Let me have it.”
“Nope!” Buddy replied. Our eyes met; I could see the rising panic. Aunt Katie took a step in Buddy’s direction.
“ Waaaaaaah!” Buddy suddenly squealed, startling all three of us, and he took off through the house with the bean pail in hand.
Aunt Katie looked surprised. “Oh, Lordy,” she apologized, “I didn’t mean to scare him!” she said, and started after him. He looked back over his shoulder.
“Waaaaaaah!”came the wail from the living room. Aunt Judy reached out from the rocking chair, but Buddy dodged like a quarterback. “Waaaaaah!” it came again, from the bedroom this time, “Waaaaaaaaaah!” He made it to the kitchen, slipping out of her grasp, and headed toward the back door. The drama unfolded.
Uncle Junior leaned over the kitchen table and snagged a sleeve. “NOOOOPE!” came the response. Buddy rounded the corner and headed into the hallway where Momma stood perplexed. “Waaaaaaah” Buddy wailed as he came through the door, beans trailing behind him. He made a beeline toward Momma, who was still standing in the doorway looking confused.
Momma would make them leave him alone. We both knew that. He almost made it to safety, until, without a second thought, Grandma reached out as he went squealing by, and simply plucked the hat right off his head.
Buddy abruptly stopped his fire engine wailing and came to a halt in the middle of the room. He could not have had more attention if he had been beating a bass drum and leading a marching band! Momma was already on her knees arms outstretched, her mouth opened to respond.
Who knows what she was about to say; “Come to Momma? Leave my baby alone? It’s okay Sweetie, Momma won’t let anybody get your hat?” Who knows? That will forever remain a mystery, because whatever it was, it disintegrated completely in the wake of the freight train that came rolling out of Momma’s mouth! Right in front of the aunts, the uncles, the cousins, Grandma, the preacher, God and everybody Momma said:
“Oh – my – God! Where the Hell are your Eyebrows!!!!”
All eyes went to Buddy’s face. He looked around at his audience like a ‘possum in the high beams. Then he smiled. “I shaved!” he said proudly, and took the gales of laughter that followed as a sign of approval.
Dysfunctional as our family could be, to their credit, none of them could tell a beaming, browless four-year old how goofy he looked. Buddy was happy as a pig in the sunshine for the rest of the day.
Sunday morning dawned and, just like every Sunday morning, Momma hurried us both to get ready for church. I found Buddy standing in front of Momma’s dressing mirror, his eyes wide and his face screwed up in horror. It seems that no one had explained to him that eyebrows, unlike daddy’s beard, do not grow back overnight. And no matter how proud he had been of himself yesterday, today was today, and he was ready to have his eyebrows back. Momma gently explained that it would take a while for them to grow back. Buddy sat down. He had time, and he would just wait. Everyone else got ready for church. Buddy, however, stubbornly refused to budge. He was not going to church without eyebrows and that was that.
And so it was. Nevertheless, just as Momma told him, Buddy’s eyebrows eventually grew back. Until they did, I spent a lot of time looking at him and chuckling. And Daddy? Well, Daddy never even noticed…but Momma never had to hide the razor again.