A dense fog of sticky, gooey mist made it almost impossible to see when I walked into the closet-sized room. The smell of acrid chemicals seemed to permeate every single pore on my face. My eyes burned, causing them to water profusely. Oh my God! I began to worry. Where are my daughters? Are they alive in this hazardous waste zone?
“Lauren, are you in here?” I cried out in a panic, ready to call 911.
“Mom, I’m right here.”
“What about Michelle and Jenni?”
“Mom!” they all cried in unison. “What is wrong with you?”
I attempted to move towards the sounds but my feet stuck to the floor – whatever had been sprayed into the air was now an inch thick on the tile flooring. It was like walking on flypaper. Gingerly moving through the murkiness, I discovered all three of my daughters fluffing their hair in front of the bathroom mirror, each with their own aerosol can of hairspray. They were loading it on thick.
“Girls, do you have to use so much?” I questioned, finding it extremely difficult to breathe. “A little goes a long way, you know.”
“Oh you should talk,” Jenni responded flippantly, holding up another layer of thick hair and spewing more tightening solution onto her hair follicles. “You’re the queen of over using beauty products.”
Okay, I agree. I probably have every item ever created by Clairol keeping me glued together and looking my best. But when I’m in the bathroom, I’m in it by myself. It’s never devolved into a competition to see who can out squirt the other. Plus it’s my room. I’m entitled to make a mess.
The hairspray air-raid happened over the summer. It was a warm June day and our entire family was preparing to go to the wedding of a close family friend. Scurrying from room to room, borrowing each other’s shoes, jewelry and an a sundry of other items, my daughters scampered back and forth in a frenetic frenzy trying to put themselves together for this auspicious affair. It was the event of the season and they had to look their best. It’s not often that the entire Haugh family’s invited to such a soiree. They were preparing for their entrance ready to make a visual statement.
“Tim, are you getting ready?” Michelle called, as she passed his room.
“Leave me alone,” he snorted in reply. “I don’t take as long as you guys.”
“You always say that, but then we’re the ones waiting for you,” she hissed, as she threw on her dress.
A few more minutes passed, but still no sign of the only male in our house. I knew I’d better step in and be the pestering mom if we were ever to make it on time. Our family was only five out of three hundred guests invited. I wanted a good seat so I could see Michelle’s life long friend, Lindsey, walk down the aisle.
“Tim!” I yelled, pulling off the blankets he was still nuzzled under at one o’clock in the afternoon. “You haven’t even taken a shower! Get going.”
“God mom, stop bugging me,” he responded, annoyed. “I will.” And with that, he slowly pulled his lumbering body off his bed and headed to the bathroom.
“This room’s disgusting!” he yelled, as he pulled the last clean green towel from the rack. “I can barely walk or touch anything in here without it sticking to me.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized on behalf of his sisters. “They were spraying their hair.”
Slamming the door shut, I could hear him mumble, “I hate being the only boy in this family.”
An hour later, we were sufficiently primped and stuffed into our black SUV, headed for the church. By this time, tensions were high and the real quarreling began.
“Get off my dress,” Michelle demanded of her brother. “I can’t look wrinkled.” Being one of Lindsey’s bridesmaids, it was imperative she look flawless.
“Jenni, do you have any gum?” Lauren inquired, as she looked at her teeth in the rear view mirror.
“No, I ate the last piece.”
“You had a whole pack this morning,” Lauren hissed. “How could it all be gone?”
“Sorry,” she sheepishly answered. Then pulling her long, wavy brown hair off her neck, Jenni asked, “Can someone roll the window down. It’s boiling in here.”
“Are you kidding?” I called from the driver’s seat. “After all we went through to get ready? The wind will undo all the time we spent on our hair!. You’ll just have to suffer.” Handing her some scrap paper from the front seat, I instructed, “Take this and fan yourself.”
On and on it went until we pulled into the church parking lot. Watching my brood pile out of the car, I was reminded of days gone by when they were young and I desperately tried to get them to Christmas morning mass with perfect behavior on top of keeping them looking their best. Somehow, time had not changed this Haugh aspect of life. It was still a relentless battle of personalities and wills.
But as they regained their composure, the giggling started. They stopped arguing in favor of helping one another. Lauren carefully removed a thick black eyelash from Michelle’s cheek. Jenni straightened Tim’s tie as he bent over to kiss her on her forehead. Watching them reassemble their clothing that had been smashed in the car and adjust the curls, I couldn’t help but get a warm and fuzzy feeling. There stood my four beautiful young adults actually enjoying one another. It was truly a perfect Kodak moment.
When my babies were young, I prayed over and over that one day they’d be good friends.
But like with any family, sibling rivalry made me doubt that was ever going to be a possibility. In their early days, there were times they couldn’t wait to get away from one another. I’m ashamed to admit it, but occasionally I found myself in the middle of a war and pondering, And I asked for this! I could have easily had only one child – or none at all. What was I thinking when I wanted a large family?
Fortunately, there is a wonderful thing called maturity and, if you can hang in there long enough (without killing them first) every child reaches it. With all of life’s struggles and pain, my children eventually learned the value that family life has to offer. Today, they are glued at the hip and each other’s best friend. They truly respect one another and the affection that they share is the lacquer that has kept us all together, no matter what struggle or temptation was put in our path that could have easily torn us apart.
This Christmas, I can hardly wait for the smell of chemicals and the aqueous solution to be glopped all over my bathroom once again. That mess can easily be wiped away, but the love that they have for one another has bonded their souls together. There is no acetone strong enough to ever wipe that clean. The dream I had when they were babies has finally come to fruition.
This holiday season, my wish for you is that you gather one and all into the tiniest room of the house, body Velcroed to body, and spray them silly. Get close to the ones you love and enjoy every second.
May you have a wonderful and very sticky Christmas!