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Lyrics and Life

By Caitlin Ward

01/10/2018

The Bright New Year
Bert Jansch

Hello mother dear
I hope you are well and happy today
I do love you and think of you
each single day
I dream of seeing you happy

In summertime I thought
that I would be able to see you again
I do love you and think of you
each single day
I dream of seeing you happy

As the bright new year
draws closer now
I’m on my way
to bring you my love
and wish you good cheer

Mother dear
I hope you are well and happy today
I do love you and think of you
each single day
I dream of seeing you happy

I’ve been fighting with my hair lately. It’s an epic battle, filled with frustration and anger and silent diatribes to the mirror every morning. There’s too much of it. It’s too big. It’s coarse and mean in this weather. In kinder seasons it hangs to my waist, but in the winter it’s dry and springs up in a haze around my face, full of static and without any sort of conscience or fellow feeling that would permit it to be more reasonable with me. I’ve spent too much money on things that promise to make my hair less malicious, with very little success. I know it’s inanimate; it’s dead protein that springs forth from my scalp. It possesses neither its own will nor the profound hostility I impose on it in my mind. Oh, but some mornings, I genuinely believe it has a sort of consciousness that is entirely consumed with antipathy toward me.

It’s a familial trial. My mother’s hair has been short for most of my life because she can’t be bothered to deal with this absurd thing, and by and large her sisters have followed suit. My sister was with my grandmother in her final hours on this plane of existence, and one of the last things my grandmother said to her before she died was, “I’m sorry about your eyebrows.” They’re just as hateful and unruly as the hair on our head.

So far as we can tell, this hair has been passed down from our great grandfather, Maximillian, a child born out of wedlock whose parentage has been a matter of some conjecture in our family, and who looked nothing like his two half-brothers. They were small and blonde. He was tall and black-haired. Or, they were tall and blonde, and he was small and black-haired. I don’t remember the nature of the height difference as well as I remember the issue of the hair. With a few exceptions, we are a rather tall family, but that could have easily come from somewhere else. Given that my mother is 5’2” I’m willing to believe that my stature came from another part of the family. But not my hair. I’m sure that’s from Great-Grandpa.

It’s hard to separate family history from family lore in these cases; though the historians and genealogists in my family would probably be able to tell you more, I can’t really say anything definitive about Maximillian’s father except he must have also had hair like this. Whatever genepool it sprang from, it’s particularly powerful. It doesn’t come from anywhere else in the family, and four generations on, we all still have it.

So that is the history of this absurd thing on my head. I could probably devote another article to the curious case of my nearly colourless eyes, which no one in the living memory of my family has but me, and forces me to wear glasses of one sort or another during daylight hours regardless of the time of year.

How strange I must look in your head, now: a towering woman with colourless eyes and a rat’s nest for a mane of hair. I don’t tell you any of this to give you an odd impression of my appearance, though. The point is not how any of this looks, but where it comes from. That, too, is a family trait: my sister and I like to know why we look the way we do, which part of the family it comes from, and how it might be passed along to a new generation in time. And this, we got from our grandmother — the one who apologized for our eyebrows, though they were not her fault, and even if they were, she wouldn’t need to be sorry for them. She had a keen sense of history and of continuity.

And that is why I don’t cut my hair off, even though my life would probably be much easier if I weren’t constantly engaged in a grudge match with the strands on my head. This hair is my grandmother’s hair. This interest is my grandmother’s interest. Only a few days into the bright New Year, I am feeling the loss of her again, though she has been gone a while and this isn’t even our first Christmas without her. A year-and-a-half later, I still wear the yellow-gold ring she wore on her ring finger up to her death. It still doesn’t look quite right on my very pale skin compared to her golden brown skin. That, I didn’t get from her. But everything I did get from her, I hold close. Even this ridiculous hair.

Ward is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer who spends her days (and most nights) working at a small Catholic college. Her less eloquent thoughts can be found at www.twitter.com/newsetofstrings