“Your sister asked for Taylor Swift and I’m not changing songs again until this song is over!” I locked eyes with the six-year-old in the rearview mirror to make sure he got my point. That’s when I caught sight of the barely recognizable mousy brown-haired girl in the driver’s seat. "Ugh, I'm so overdue for highlights." I reached up and smoothed down the hair on either side of my part, realizing that without the assistance of my quarterly foils, I had essentially become a brunette.
I eased into a left-hand turn, still glaring at the unfamiliar woman in the mirror, when a glint at the crown of my head caught my eye. "What was that? Surely … no. It couldn't be. It's not. Is it?" I straightened out the wheel and cast a more thorough glance into the mirror.
Rolling to a stop at a red light, I probed my part, isolating the sparkling strand from her more modest sisters. There she was, sticking straight up like a proud first grader's hand, begging for attention.
It took the whole light cycle for me to delicately extract her from her follicle, taking care to leave her younger companions intact all around. "Damn. My first grey hair."
I'd never dare breathe the words aloud, but for several years now I've been proud of my lack of grey. When my friends would go a little too long between trips to the salon, I’d smugly note their grey roots and settle a little more comfortably onto my high horse. At 33, my golden blond, chemically enhanced coiffure had always been free from signs of age.
I probably wouldn't have noticed it had I gone to the hairdresser's last month for my scheduled appointment. But I’d had to cancel yet again when I couldn't find a babysitter.
I sat bathed in the glow of the traffic light and contemplated all the changes my body has undergone in the past seven years. Mothering four children has left indelible marks on my frame. Soft silvery stretch marks tattoo my lower belly. Surgical scars now mar once virgin flesh. Sleepless nights have spawned wrinkles across a formerly smooth brow and more laughs than I knew were possible have crimped the skin encircling my eyes.
I was one of those rare women who voiced doubts that a baby could be worth all of this. Seven years of motherhood has brought me around on that issue, but I still cling tightly to the fading vestiges of youth that remain – my blond(ish) hair being chief among them. As I held that grey in between thumb and forefinger, the words of a proverb gently wove their way to the forefront of my mind, "the honor of old men is their grey hair.”
I gave a little snort as I recalled the phrase and questioned what was so honorable about going grey. Don’t we all go grey in the end, honorable or not?
The thought wouldn’t leave me, so I looked up the word ‘honor’ when I got home. The definition that seemed to fit was sixth on Webster’s list: an evidence or symbol of distinction, a badge or decoration. I immediately thought of the military and the way we decorate our veterans. The medals, the bars, the stripes on their uniforms, all of these are honors. And yes, some are for exemplary service like the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor. But the vast majority of a soldier’s badges indicate the amount of time they have served and the various places they have been stationed. We honor soldiers for showing up. For putting in the time. For refusing to go AWOL on the hard days, the days they would rather put themselves first, the days they long for a more prestigious assignment.
I think I get it now. Maybe it really is that simple. I’m earning my honors with each day that passes. Each day I decide to mother these kids in spite of the way that I feel. In spite of my ineptitude and my exhaustion. Each day that I give one more hug, sing one more song, serve one more meal. I considered this perspective and deep down something like pride welled up as I stared at that pale, coarse hair.
In another month when I get my act together, any other greys that pop up will be locked away from the world’s eye in a prison of chemical camouflage. I will once again look like my less-experienced self, a casual dirty blonde with streaks of gold framing my face. Just like the cream I rub into my abdomen and the make-up I dab on my scars, I will conceal this symbol of age and do my best to erase the passage of time.
But I know they are there. I know they are multiplying and taking over the color of my youth one by one. And when I think about what it has taken to earn them, I truly am proud of what they mean. So I kept that plucky grey strand. I trapped it between my fingers the entire drive home and grabbed my camera once here to preserve the appearance of my first grey hair. An honor indeed.
Guest post written by Katie Leipprandt. Katie discovered early on in motherhood that blogging was cheaper than therapy and now loves helping other women embrace the crazy joy of their lives through story. She lives in a small home in Atlanta with her husband of 11 years, BJ, and four small people who keep calling her Mom. You can read more from Katie on her blog Crazy Joy and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.