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Pungent peonies trigger permanent memories

God has a strange sense of humor.

Sure, after a crazy day of rain and sunshine alternating every five minutes, He will give us a beautiful sunset full of colors you will never see anywhere else. It's at those times I sit back in the new deck chairs and think, "God is good … all the time."

But for some reason it seems, He also likes to goof around. Case in point: peonies.

On the day that peonies were created, I wonder if there wasn't some sort of emergency in the offing. This distraction from the work at hand is the only explanation for the strange smell of this beautiful flower.

Or perhaps I am the only one who thinks peonies smell like a Toni home perm. At any rate, one whiff of some early June peonies transports me back to what may be the only trauma of my childhood.


Ahhh, the home permanent kit, promising beautiful waves and loads of body. For some reason my hair always had other plans than those pictured on the box.

My grandma gave me my first home perm when I was in second grade. Before she started raising her seven children, Grandma was a hair stylist. She was therefore a trusted ally in the crusade for curls.

Due to her mother’s former profession, my mother was a hair stylist by proxy. I'm not going to say that my mom didn't know what she was doing because looking back on it now, she did the best she could. The perms my grandma gave might have failed as well, but it's the "emotional space" between Grandma and me that keeps me from remembering if they were successful or not.

Honestly, when it comes to giving someone a perm, the deck is stacked against you from the beginning. It takes more courage to give someone a perm than it does to actually sit in the chair with your scalp and eyes burning.

Over the course of almost 10 years, the conversation was always the same. I would ask Mom to give me a perm, forgetting about the silent vow I made just six months earlier to never EVER ask that question again. Mom always said yes (for some reason) but added the same caveat, "only if you promise not to get mad or cry when we're done."

Out came the perm rods, full of promise that this time everything would turn out all right. Of course, it rarely did, but that didn't stop us. The last of the Toni would be swirling down the kitchen sink and the tension would start.

For some reason my hair never looked like the picture in the magazine that I had VERY clearly shown to my mom, so the waterworks would start. I had learned my lesson to not yell at Mom about how terrible my hair looked, because she had in fact made me promise I would not do that, but that didn't stop the tears.

These memories leave me with many questions: Why did I keep asking for those terrible stinky perms? Why did my mom keep saying yes? Why didn't she send me to a salon or to Grandma?


I called her just now to ask why she agreed to participate in this torture so many times. "I suppose," she said, "because you kept asking."

Who has the sense of humor now?

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