My oldest son recently texted me a picture of his girlfriend sitting on the couch next to a bag of hair. Actually, he had to tell me what was in the bag, because it was somewhat unclear from the picture. The two of them had gone to see my husband’s mother, who my sons refer to as Bubbe.
In the process of downsizing, Bubbe had given them some things from her house, including a bag containing her (long ago) shorn braided ponytail, as well as a bag containing her own mother’s (even longer ago) shorn pony tail.
This must be true love, I thought upon receiving my son’s text. Who travels home on the train and subway with their boyfriend’s grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s hair?
Since we were doing the show-and-tell thing, I sent my son a picture of my own braid from when I was about 8 years old, which my mom had saved for me. At this point my son got a little freaked out and texted “Do all women keep their hair in their closet? WTF?”
Somewhat curious myself I phoned a good friend and asked her about the hair situation. She confirmed that her mom also has hair in a bag from long ago. Maybe there’s a reason we all have Ponytails-In-A-Bag — it’s probably a European custom we didn’t know about.
My son’s girlfriend, who is (obviously) very sweet, said that at first she thought my mother-in-law was handing her a bag of muffins. When it became clear what it was, she said, “after the initial shock (of being handed old hair), it didn’t seem so strange because we were looking at older photographs and troves of memories. Once we left and I was on the Long Island Rail Road sitting next to a bag of my boyfriend’s grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s hair, I realized this was really very weird.”
So why did she give them the hair? Recently my son’s girlfriend donated her beautiful long locks to a cause that helps women who need it. My mother-in-law decided that rather than continue to save the hair, which she assumed her sons would throw out after she passed, she’d give it to my son’s girlfriend to see if she could donate it to a similar cause.
For someone who has trouble parting with things, this was especially generous.
As promised, my son’s girlfriend found a home for Bubbe’s bag of hair. I offered to ask my friends for more hair for her to donate, but she diplomatically suggested that each family should have the privilege of passing down heirloom hair to their own grandchildren.
So if you happen to come across a ponytail-in-a-bag at your parents’ or grandparents’ house and are unsure what to do with it, perhaps you will be inspired by Bubbe’s solution.
Image: Annemarie Schumacher