Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Legend of the Pink Comb

"Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time."  Laura Ingalls Wilder

Family readying for Skype and phone connections
to Pensacola and Puerto Rico.

Becky listening and waiting for her turn
to read her Family from Yosemite story.
For some years now we've been writing family stories as our Christmas gifts to the family.  This year we presented them on Christmas Eve with hook ups to Florida and Puerto Rico to include everyone. I've only posted my stories on my blog.  Here are my past entries:

Christmas 2008 - Maybe We're Just an Ugly Family
Christmas 2009 - My Temple! My Temple! It's My Temple!
Christmas 2010 - Freeways and Parking Lots

Here's my story for this year - The Family From Yosemite 2011

The Legend of the Pink Comb
by Martha Reynders Blair

You wouldn’t think the words “legend” and “pink comb” could be in the same sentence, but when you’re talking about the Family from Yosemite such oddities do exist. Let me give a little history so you can understand how this came about.

Everyone has hair, so combing is a way of life and I expected my home with all its hair would be like my mother’s and her mother before her. Both my mother and grandmother had a container filled with combs. My mother had a blue and white crock and my grandmother had a circular green glass vase. I remember looking in these containers as a child, my eyes examining each comb. I was like a kid in a candy store anticipating the sugar high. I took some delight in eyeing each comb with all the protruding shapes, varied colors, sizes, and styles readying myself for a coifing experience.

In my selecting, I soon learned that not all combs are created equal. My grandmother with her instinct to save because of the Depression and my mother with her “year supply” mentality had lots of useless combs in their collection. For example, those cheapy combs you’d get on picture day at school; always good for one swipe through the hair before your photo was snapped and not good for anything else. Even so, there were plenty of good ones too. Just like candy, I had my favorites. No matter what my combing experience would bring, I always enjoyed picking out my comb. It was a daily ritual I delighted in.

Then I got married. Things started out fine. We had one black comb. It had its place and we were good to take turns, but then more were added to our family, seven to be exact, that meant more heads with hair to comb. Even then there weren’t issues for awhile because I used baby combs on baby heads, but eventually baby hair turns to big kid hair and that’s when the dilemma ensued.

With lots of children to get ready in the morning and the pressure of getting children off to school or ready for church in a timely manner, I would make my frantic attempt at getting heads combed and out the door. The comb would not end up in the designated spot in the drawer of our bathroom, but would be found in the kitchen, the kid‘s bathroom, or even the floor. Consequently, Hughie would be dismayed in the morning because it would put a kink in his orderly routine.

Now I must reference here that Hughie is particularly neat following the old adage “a place for everything and everything in its place.” The prophet, Brigham Young, had used this terminology. Hugh would like to claim he was simply keeping the commandment. He unfortunately would become very disturbed by the comb not being in its assigned spot. We soon realized or I should say we have all made our own diagnosis, that Hughie is a closet OCD person - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The comb, its place, etc. was all a major concern.

In order for me to deal with the situation of lots of heads and one comb, my childhood memory came back like a vision. That delightful experience of picking out a comb in a container filled with combs. Surely this will make the situation better. Daddy will have a comb. Children will have combs. Everyone will have a happy combing experience.

I pulled out a circular green vase collecting dust in a cupboard. I believe it was the original comb vase of my grandmother. I bought a few bags of combs and made an arrangement, almost like flowers. I figured we were good to go - no more problems, but my plan was foiled one morning when Hughie said he couldn’t find his comb. Ugh! “Comb Shmomb,” I thought, “This shouldn’t be a problem.”

I picked up the green jar of combs and said, “Here pick one.”

But Hughie was aghast, “These aren’t any good. These are icky combs.”

“What do you mean, icky? There should be a nice comb in here somewhere! I just bought them.”

I gingerly pulled an acceptable specimen from the green glass and handed it to him. Hugh took it, looked at it, and stroked it through his hair a few times, but his face showed his obvious disapproval.

“What’s the matter with it?” I said.

“It scratches my head!” he countered.

I grabbed the comb and put it through my hair for my own test. I admitted it didn’t feel as nice as his usual comb, but certainly he could live with it. “What’s the big deal?!” I said.

Again with disgust, “It scratches my head!”

“So!!!” was my reply.


Well, the hunt was on. In spite of our search, we couldn’t find Hughie’s comb. I started buying more and more combs with the attempt to find a really good comb. Nothing in a multi-pack would do. All individually wrapped combs were the only consideration for suitable testing. Hughie was some kind of comb aficionado. His sampling and opinion were the only one that held any weight, as we combed through the combs.

He knew exactly what he was looking for. I was amazed at what I thought was a somewhat pleasant lifetime of combing only to find that I was way to easily satisfied. Whatever! In spite of my attempts to purchase a suitable comb, Hughie was always dissatisfied.

One morning as he was grumbling once again about using some misfit of a comb, I tried to appease his anguish by providing some hope, “Maybe the comb you liked didn’t start out so comfortable. Maybe it’s like a favorite pair of old shoes that has been worn down over time and become even more comfortable with age.”

“That’s not it!” he clamored back in despair.

The quest continued, but finally, we found one that he liked. There was no doubt and he stroked his hair time and time again with the utmost pleasure. He knew he‘d arrived with - THE PINK COMB.

Unfortunately, my group of combs arranged in a vase for the picking was not satisfying to anyone in the family, including me; I had to admit the pink comb was better. Daddy’s previous comb had spoiled all our heads. All others combs were not an option, so in spite of the extra combs in the green vase, the pink comb became coveted. And regrettably, it did not maintain its important spot in Daddy’s drawer. Everyone used it and everyday Hughie had to hunt it down always starting his morning with frustration, but then he would instantly calm as his head was caressed by the pink comb’s magic.

This situation went on for many years. The pink comb began to wear. Even though a tine or two became missing, it still maintained its appeal in spite of its dilapidated appearance. After many years of use and abuse, one morning Hugh went on his usual pursuit to find the pink comb. His frustration could not be appeased by the smooth stroke of the pink comb because the pink comb was missing. I mean, really missing! It couldn’t be found. Again, dare I say, Hughie “combed” the house up and down and all around in his hunt for the pink comb. Through this investigation we would hear a periodic scream of despair, “Where’s the PINK COMB?!!!”

We were all eventually brought into the search; the mystery had to be solved. Like Sherlock Holmes we theorized, “Could it have fallen in the trash can? Taken in the car in a mad dash to some event, combing as we drove?” We searched, but nothing. “Maybe it was left somewhere on a family trip and extended family was now in possession of it?” We didn’t know what had happened to it. The mystery was constantly discussed.

I started buying combs in an attempt to replace it, but to no avail. Its replacement was futile. Nothing seemed compatible to the old pink comb. It was like a depression came over us. We couldn’t start our day with the once therapeutic mojo that would envelop our heads with comfort. Instead, we left the house with scowls on our faces knowing full well from where our comfort had once come. No other comb seemed to satisfy. Eventually, we went our separate ways with our own dissatisfying combs. The pink comb had been so amazing. It was an end of an era in combdom.

I wondered if other families had experienced such a thing. Certainly it had been something unique to our own home. We never found the pink comb or a satisfactory replacement. It was just another chapter in the saga of the Family from Yosemite.

Then, one day, years later, I was at the Ferguson’s for a reason I can‘t remember. Anyway, I was sitting on a wooden swivel chair at the kitchen counter in their family room waiting to speak to Linda, the mom. They had the usual expected hubbub going on about the house with their large family of nine children.

From across the room, I could see and hear Bruce, the dad, and one of the older boys in the doorway of the hallway in front of me. They were grunting and groaning as they tried to maneuver a bookcase. They were in the process of moving it to a different location in the house. What surprised me as they lifted the bookcase off the ground and then forward a few feet, one shouted in disgust, “THE RED COMB!”

“WHAT!?” another family member’s outcry was heard in the house with the grave feeling of disbelief.

Under the pressure of the load in hand one of the guys quickly kicked the red comb out so it could be easily retrieved. There was a sense of dismay when he shouted, “THE RED COMB!” You could feel it, their home was filed with a sigh of relief and yet some anxiety too over the needless suffering their heads had been through, like they too had been paying some kind of price by not having it readily available to soothe eleven bed heads every morning. Me, I was surprised all right, but I also had a sense of satisfaction in knowing we weren’t alone in our quandary of combdom.

1 comment:

  1. What a great, laugh-aloud story! Thanks for sharing!