I have a lot of gray hair. More than most people my age, and probably no less than my mom, who outdates me by a good 25 years.
The only good thing about this much gray is that I deeply love going to get it colored every month (okay, every three weeks . . . okay, it really should be every two and a half, but that’s not good for anyone physically or emotionally).
I discovered my salon and my amazing stylist, who is now also one of my favorite friends, when my boys were still young enough to want to hold my hand and hug me in public. Where they begged for piggyback rides and games of statue maker on the tiny hill we called a front yard. Years when I still helped them cross the street and gave them underdogs on swings. A magical time of life when we lived in a tiny duplex in the city, where they shared a room and were too little to want each other out of the way. When they spent hours together imagining, playing, and basking in the golden light of childhood without even realizing it—just like most of us do.
For a long time, I walked the two blocks to the salon, to turn those grays back to brown. Past my neighborhood coffee shop, my favorite wine bar, and the best place to get a burger in Saint Paul (in my humble, but not frequent meat-eating opinion).
Those were the years before I moved across the bridge to a neighboring suburb. To a whimsical red farmhouse-style home with a rooster statue in the expansive front yard, where there are no street lights or sidewalks. To the years when my kids started a life that led them to their own bedrooms, new schools, new friends. To the years that are turning them from boys to young men. It is beautiful and challenging in so many different ways.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my days now, being the mom of teens. The sports I get to spectate and cheer too loudly at. Watching my new driver pull out of our garage for the first time to go off on his own to meet his friends for fries or a pizza. Watching my younger one ride away on his bike, owning the wide streets that substitute for sidewalks. All while anticipating his summer course of driver’s ed, so his bike can soon become another set of wheels.
But it’s different here. In this space. In these years. They can feel lonely and scary. That gradual release of sending them into their own worlds, which doesn’t actually seem so gradual at all. There are moments the heaviness of it weighs on my heart like a ton of bricks as I marvel at where the time has gone and yearn for the time I wish I could bottle up with them.
So when those grays start growing in like trustworthy old friends, every three weeks, I get to come back to my old neighborhood and sit in the nostalgia of it all.
Without fail, every time, I find myself driving by that old duplex, still missing one of the rails on the front porch from when my kids fell through it. Looking through the front window, and feeling the overwhelming wave of something I can’t explain, thinking of all the emotions that home held for us.
The wave of grief remembering the nursery we set up for our first son, who we never got to bring home. Remembering our first dog as a family, given to me as a gift for our wedding from my husband—I spent so many years fiercely loving that dog before saying goodbye to him on the floor of that family room.
And the joy—the resounding echo of footsteps racing down the tiny hall. The basement dance parties, jumping over piles of toys and cubes and tunnels. The birthday parties, the football games dressed in superhero costumes in the field across the street, tickling my kids until they laughed so hard they cried.
I relish in all of the memories of our younger years. The moments that defined me as a parent. The heartbeat of a time and place that seems so distant, but that I’m fortunate enough to revisit with such frequency.
And I hope with all of my heart that someday when I’m even older and grayer, I can still make that trip to sit on the salon stoop and soak in the nostalgia of it all.