Many years ago, my mother gave me a copper hair pin which she said had belonged to my great-grandmother. I used it to hold a long braid wrapped around my head in the days when I still believed that a woman’s hair could be her crowning glory. A U.S. Marshal confiscated that hairpin in 1990 at the federal courthouse in Springfield, Missouri. He had insisted that I take down the braid to demonstrate that I hadn’t hidden a weapon in the mass of curls. The same zealous defender of our rights took the 1-inch adjustable wrench which my considerate spouse had provided for me to tighten the recalcitrant nut on my windshield wiper.
The marshal never returned either of them.
When I had just the one hairpin, I always could find it. After its theft-under-color-of-law, I discovered Goody hairpins. Plastic, 3 inches long and sturdy, these hairpins could once be found hanging on the racks in most drugstores. I bought multiple packages and became quite cavalier about their storage. Any drawer in my home could have a handful rattling in its depths. I shoved a few in my pocketbooks, on bedside tables. I carelessly scattered them around the house here and there.
A year or so ago, I broke down and bought a thick bone hair pin to form my court-do. I have two hair styles: Up, and down. Up is for court. Down is for everything else. I found a smooth bone hair pick on Amazon and liked it so much that I bought a second one from the same vendor, though when it arrived, I got a small shock. Less than half the size of the first, the new acquisition seemed flimsy and useless.
The darn thing broke yesterday. One of its stems snapped in my hand. I stared at it for a few seconds, then tossed it down beside the thin wire hairpins that I got from a stylist one time, when I tried to get my hair done. I had to laugh at her enthusiasm for the small slender pins she used. It took about twenty of them to hold my mass of gypsy waves.
As I stared at the remains of my broken hair pin, understanding that it clearly had been made of plastic and not the advertised bone, I remembered my grandmother’s copper pin. I thought about the care which I took to keep track of it, back when I only had one and it worked really well. I didn’t need dozens. I kept it in my jewelry box and took it out when I wanted to wear my up-do. I always knew where it was. It never failed me, right up to the moment that the U.S. Marshal said, Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to step over here and show me what’s in your hair.
I thought about getting on Amazon and reviewing the defective hair pin. I hunted down the bigger one, the successful purchase, and examined both of them. Did I really get them from the same place? How can one be so perfect and the other so lame? I thought about the stylist who did my hair that day, with dozens of tiny wire pins that barely held a wisp of curl; and the old reliable Goodies, three or four of which keep a French braid neat and tidy all day.
I won’t send a photo to the vendor in outrage. I can’t; that would be complaining. But the truth about hairpins has been revealed. It took me sixty years to see the metaphor. But it’s there. Oh, my heavens; it’s there. And I’m wishing I had that copper pin, and the little wrench too. They served me well.
It’s the thirteenth day of the thirty-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.