Peanut Butter and Jelly Striped Hair Without the Fish Heads Please

December 14, 2007 by Ellen Stimson in Hair, North Country, Vermont, Weather

So you move 1000 miles away from where you have lived your first forty years to a sweet and beautiful place. You have dreamed about this new life for a long time. You sold your company and plan on transitioning your family without the encumbrance of a new business for at least a year. Then everything will be happily sorted. You imagine a lazy summer vacation with the kids, playing pinochle on the screened porch and roasting marshmallows over bonfires out in the woods. All of this comes to pass and pretty soon the more mundane details begin to reveal themselves. You find a reliable grocer and ask the local Italian market to order in your favorite cheeses. You learn to like hiking in the morning while you wait for the NYT to get to your town. There is a price to be paid for living in this high valley surrounded by mountains and waiting til mid morning for the paper seems cheap. You replace your doctors and dentist and find a dry cleaners that doesn’t put those little tags on your clothes saying ‘we tried, but….’ You spend enough time in the local bookstore so that they get to know your family by name. And eventually you all start to find new friends. There is only one problem…your hair. You have wildly curly hair that has been lovingly tended by one particular stylist for ten years. You like to describe it as an unmade bed, and it’s cherry coke stripes go along with your gypsy vibe. Only now you live where there are very few people and even fewer hairdressers. One bad haircut after another has left your hair creeping higher and higher and looking less and less like you want and more and more like those awful preteen years when your mother cut your bangs and bought Dippity Doo to try and tame it. This was bad.

But then there was a long weekend to Montreal and a spur of the moment walk into a hip Aveda salon where the haircutters had colorful wild hair. And you left there with peanut butter and jelly striped curls that made you giddy. However Montreal for a long weekend was one thing, but an eight hour round trip was a bit much for a haircut. You rationalize. Four to six times per year isn’t so much. And so it begins. For many months it was fine. You’d make the trip in one day and come home feeling pretty and sexy and 8 hours seemed like an easy call. Only then winter came. Winter in the north country is serious business. Winter four hours further north even more so.

And of course the blizzard came on the way home from one of those cheery hair excursions a day earlier than the weather forecasters had predicted. At first it didn’t seem like a blizzard. It was a lovely snow with big fat flakes. But as it got darker the snow hardened. The flakes got mean and small and the wind blew them hard and sideways. It was snowing in sheets and visibility was practically nonexistent. There were no exits or none that you could see anyway. Cell service wouldn’t come back for nearly 100 more miles. There were plenty of blankets in the car, but the temperature gauge said it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold for an easy night by the side of the road. But eventually, driving variously in the center of the road, looking for a line to navigate by, or the shoulder looking for an exit, you edged over and saw an exit with a gasoline and bed sign. Okaaay. There was a hotel. Everything was going to be all right. You drove cautiously and eventually found the gas station, but no hotel. “Oh”, the fellow selling twelve packs said, “there is a motel at the lake, but it’s closed this time a year. You could try them though. They have a restaurant so somebody’s probably there” It was only eightteen miles up the road. Those eighteen miles took two hours to cover. It was a high curvy road, with a craggy drop off and a lake way down below. You imagined the newspaper articles. Woman caught in snowstorm, killed in sub zero temperatures. What drove her out into the storm? Yes, well, it was for a haircut. Your family wouldn’t even be able to grieve, they’d be too busy fending off offers from Larry King.

But eventually you saw the Motel sign and pulled into a parking lot. You put your head on the steering wheel and thanked God for getting you there. You climbed out and went into the “restaurant”, which was really a long bar with a couple of tables. There were three men at the bar and when you asked about a room, they all rather crookedly ran outside to look at the storm you were describing. They all began to put on coats and gloves, and ran out to warm up their cars. One of them started locking the cash register. He gave you a key to a room, and another for the furnace room in case your heat stalled. Stalled. Uh-huh. Tells you how to re-light the pilot. He tosses you a lighter and tells you it is a little touchy. You have never lit a pilot light or even heard of lighting one in 42 years. Then he gives you a key to the bar and tells you to help yourself to the chips if you get hungry. He winks and says there’s always plenty of scotch.

Wobbly and walking to your room you pass a trash can with a sign that said “Don’t throw fish heads away. They attract the bears” The bears. Like they were locals maybe. Your husband worried when you called him from the pay phone, but you were 200miles apart in a blizzard. He tried to gently console you, but 200 miles is 200 miles.

The bed had a thin orange cotton bedspread, but at least the heat came on. The scotch was too strong so it was beer and pretzels for supper. Sleep came hard and fast until the loud sound of the plow woke you up in the morning.

You walked out to a glorious shiny day with sparkles everywhere. The trip back to the highway was simple and the sweeping view of the mountains and the lake were spectacular. You were grateful to be around for this morning. You decided that peanut butter and jelly striped hair didn’t matter so much in the dead of winter. Except then February rolled around, and your roots started to show. You remembered Larry King, and this time you checked the train schedules….


  • Suzanne

    What a gripping story! As a veteran of the Dippity-Do battles, however, I can understand how a good hairstyle can make that long trip seem feasible. But definitely by train.

  • Illinois X

    I want the first autographed copy when this is all published in a book…another home run and the hits just keep coming…fantastic…they say always write what you know and know what you write…you’ve done it again.

  • library lady

    I’m afraid that I’ll have to wrestle illinois x for that first autographed copy! I told my hair dresser I wanted something different the last time she highlighted my hair, and now I’m walking around with orange base and tangerine highlights. (In all fairness, I must add that I am the only one who sees these two colors.) But Montreal is out of the question.

  • Anonymous

    What’s the name of this magical salon?

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