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a new version of me.



During my last trip to New York, I decided to bring back to Paris a stack of my journals from my 20s, providing entertaining morning reads over coffee. It's been branded that our teen years are supposed to be this confusing and emotionally charged time in our life, but I would have to argue that that better describes what my 20s were all about. Something I was not at all prepared for.

The central theme for most of these entries is me figuring out what I was supposed to be doing with my life, one entry took a break in my enduring existential crisis and inspired the photo above to take place.

It was 2004 and my mother called to tell me that she and my father were coming out to LA to visit. It immediately struck me as strange because my parents had been divorced for twenty years, and while they had remained friends, their relationship would hardly necessitate a family vacation to visit their adult(ish) daughter in California. And despite my father's Southern California upbringing, he had made it clear that he had no interest in ever returning. So why were they coming out? 

I arrived at LAX in my clunky 1994 navy blue Volvo, my two ton burden of steel that at any given moment would just turn off. Weeks would pass without an incident, then, just like that, it would happen. I would be cruising at high speeds down the 101, and feel a creeping pressure in the break, then the steering wheel stiffen up and the dashboard would light up like a Christmas tree, which meant boom, the car was shutting down for at least five minutes. 

I learned to avoid freeways or in worst case scenarios hug the shoulder, but when the car broke down in the intersection of Sunset and Vine, in front of the job of this guy I was faux-dating, a guy who made jokes that I was a stalker (ha ha?), that, was when I knew I had to start thinking about getting a new car. Don't you love how it took a guy, not me almost dying on a freeway in Los Angeles to consider getting a new car?

I was approaching the terminal from the short-term parking lot when I saw my mother, already waiting on the curb wearing a black chinchilla coat.

"Holy shit!" she said, fanning herself with her boarding pass. "Why is it so hot here?"

"Because you're wearing fur in April. In Los Angeles."

"Wait, where's Georgia?" I asked, looking around for my dad, mindlessly using the nickname I have coined him with back when I was a teen-ager.

"You still call him that?" my mother asked, extending her arms out to give me a hug. "He's going to the bathroom. He'll be right out." 

"So why are you guys here? Don't tell me you're getting back together."

"What are you, crazy?"

Through the sliding doors, my father came out, except it was not the dad I knew. He didn't have his hair, was about thirty pounds slighter and looked like he had aged twenty years in the six months since I had seen him, mostly by the way he was struggling to walk.

Before I could even let out a hello to greet my father, a flood of tears filled my eyes that if I blinked they would paint streaks down my face.

"I'm dying. We wanted to tell you in person," my father said with a shrug. "Anyway, let's go. The airport fumes are making me nauseous and I'm starving." 

"You have an appetite still?" my mother asked as the two of them walked past me with linked arms towards the direction of the parking lot. "I could go for a glass of wine about now."

That week I insisted that my parents stay with me in my studio apartment as some fucked up family vacation we never got to have. It was my mother and I in my bed, my dad on my couch, and my 2 month old kitten Charlie that did nothing short of torturing my father in his sleep. The first night, in my dark apartment, the three of us tucked and were dozing off to sleep.

"Lisa-ington?" my dad whispered to me.

"Yes, Georgia?"

"I have a request before I die."

"Ok."

"I never want to hear the song "Dreams" by Fleetwood Mac ever again. If I hear Stevie Nicks whine about her crystal vision one more time, I swear, I'll lose it."

"But I love that song!" my mom chimed in from her side of the bed.

"Ok," I interrupted my loud mother. "If I can help it, you will never hear "Dreams" ever again. Any other requests? One that is not so random?"

"No, that's it." 

We heard "Dreams" over breakfast at Eat Well Café at the Sunset Junction the following morning.

Looking back on that week, I don't remember so much the tears as I do the laughs while my father's "sparkling" personality was still intact. We even took a day trip down to Long Beach where I met my grandmother Stella for the first time who was just as dramatic as she had been illustrated to me by my family. Rocking her deep red lipstick and turban, she spoke in a traveler's lexicon, infusing bits of French, Arabic and Spanish into her English.

A week later, I dropped my parents off at the airport, and for weeks, I felt lost. I didn't know what to do with myself. My entire family would be with my dad during his last six months, and I was in LA doing extra work and waiting tables. It seemed stupid to stay, but my mother insisted that I finished my time out there because she believed there was a reason why I needed to be there.

Without giving it much thought, I drove to a salon by the Silver Lake reservoir and made an appointment to donate my hair to Locks of Love, the non-profit organization that provides wigs for financially challenged children who experience hair loss due to an illness.

With it almost being the ten year anniversary since the first time I participated in Locks of Love, the one-year anniversary of the death of my uncle who struggled for four years with pancreatic cancer, and the would-be thirty years of sobriety for my father, it seemed like the perfect occasion to make another donation.

Last Tuesday I went to Toni and Guy in the 11th arrondissement with a mound of hair on my head and left with it in a zip lock bag; a way more emotional experience that I had predicted when making this decision. The salon's art director pulled out her large scissors, I felt its cold blade slide on the nape of my neck, and heard a crunch. "Et voilà!" she said handing me my hair over my shoulder. And just like that, it was gone.

My Dad had never been to Paris but he will always be a part of Tuesday's memory. So without further ado, here is the new look....



It's a new version of me....

53 comments:

  1. What a poignant, beautifully written post, Lisa. When I saw on Twitter that you were donating your hair to "Locks of Love", I thought it was very generous of you. Thanks for sharing the backstory behind your decision. You're a lovely, big-hearted woman -- inside and out.

    Life is as fragile as it is beautiful. Your post serves as a good reminder that we should cherish every moment. I'll think of your words when I get annoyed, as I invariably will, at how slow the traffic is moving, how long I'm standing in line or how someone cut in front of me in line. In the scheme of things, those little daily annoyances aren't anything at all.

    And, finally, you look très, très chic with short hair. I love it!

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    1. Hi MK,

      Thank you for this beautiful message. I want to spread awareness of this wonderful organization that I was surprised that not many people know about. I keep stumbling upon articles about how cropped hair is the look of 2014, so I'm hoping those who follow the trend will use the opportunity to donate to Locks of Love.

      Life is fragile and one thing I tried to this winter season is to not wish it away and speed through January and February to make use of each day. Perspective really is so powerful and so far I am having a lovely winter (the kind weather has also helped!)

      I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. Thank you again for this comment.

      xo.

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  2. Very touching. Grieving is hard, even decades later, and being able to let go of something physical is, in many ways, like being able to move on.

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    1. Hi Cat,

      A big part of what makes grieving easier, especially so many years later, is to remember the laughs. I did not mean for this post to read so sadly, I was actually chuckling as I wrote it because the dynamic between my mother and father was really funny when they came out to LA. It was one of the best memories I had had with them, even if it was under such sad circumstances.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

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  3. I think your new haircut looks really sophisticated and grown-up.

    I'm happy to read that your parents were able to set aside their differences at the end of your father's life. I'm sure that made it much easier for your father and allowed him to go peacefully, without any grudges.

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    1. Thank you so much! I blew it out for the first time last night and it's VERY Mad Men/Audrey from Twin Peaks. I'm going to have fun with it!

      Oh, my parents were good friends all through my childhood. There were never any ill feelings. My dad just had to go to rehab in '83 and that was the reason for divorce. I have many lovely memories with both my parents, just on the island of Manhattan, we never went bi-coastal until this trip! That was what made it unique.

      Thank you for your sweet message.

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  4. tres chic indeed...and such a worthy cause.

    I had to laugh about your old volvo..reminded me of my old honda civic that I used to drive to work only in the right hand lane so I could make my escape when it starting over heating...or just broke down....

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    1. Merci beaucoup, Deb! I am happy to do it! I'm just a wee bit concerned with customs because as of late they have been going through my packages on both the US and French borders. I'm worried that a package of hair my raise some red flags that I may just wait until my mom comes in two weeks, to have her send it from NY.

      AHHHHHHH!!! Overheated cars are the worst!!!! You drive staring at the thermometer, hoping it stays in the blue and hope you don't smell that "smell". The almost sweet smelling heated car fuel smell. My Honda Accord had that problem. What a nuisance, right?!

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  5. you look beautiful! and what a wonderful story. :-)

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  6. Gah right in my feels. Thanks for sharing the story.

    I like the new haircut playfull yet with some maturity.

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    1. Hi Tim,

      Thank you so much for commenting and for appreciating the story that inspired my second donation.

      So far I have been having fun with the new look. I'm going a little Mad Men this week!

      Thank you for your kind words!

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  7. Damn you, Lisa. You know, I come to your blog all excited to see your new hair and geek out like a total girl over it, and instead I end up crying in my coffee.

    It's a beautiful story, and I also want to give props to your mom for being mature and strong and standing beside her ex-husband in his time of need (even if he never would have described it that way!).

    Now....

    OMG OMG OMG IT'S SOOOOO CUUUUUTE! I absolutely LOVE your short hair! I was always envious of your long locks but you look so badass and even more French with this beautiful crop! A fabulous and generous decision. Did you tell Aurélien you were going to do it before you did it? (Haha, I could only imagine the look of surprise if you didn't!)

    GORGEOUS

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    1. Oh man, I thought this post was funny! My parents were hysterical this week, despite the ill-nature of their trip. I guess I'll be editing the "funny parts" of my book this week!

      My parents were friends for years, it wasn't some selfless act on her part to bring him out to LA, it was the fact that she gave him her First class seat that was her big gesture! I had fun on this wacky family vacation involving a psycho kitty named Charlie, a mother from Long Island, a sick father, a daughter who is lost in her 20s, all taken place in a studio apartment in silver Lake. That could be a play!

      Aurel knew in advance but I went to the salon alone on a Tuesday and when I left it was frustrating spending the whole day not being able to share it with someone. My little ones didn't exactly notice!


      Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

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  8. You are beautiful, inside and out. Gorgeous post xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Cara. You're such a good friend to me. I truly appreciate you.

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  9. Thanks for sharing that story with us. Locks of Love is such a great thing. I wish I could grow my hair long enough to donate (my hair sort of reaches a certain length and then stops).

    And I love love LOVE your new look. It looks so light and like it has a lot of movement. Perfect new look!

    -Shannon

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    1. Hi Shannon!

      Locks of Love really is a special organization, isn't it? I was so pleased to learn about it back in '04 and was proud to participate.

      Thank you for the compliments! I'm pleased with the cut myself. I did have some reservations like if I was going to be able to style it myself (because short hair can't just be thrown back in a ponytail!) and I tried it last night and am pleased with the results. What a relief, really.

      Thank you again for your comment!

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  10. Felicity!! Your story really touched me. And your haircut looks great-- fresh and bouncy and ready to chase away the gray Parisian skies.

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    1. Yes!!! Felicity!!!! I listened to the soundtrack on the way to the salon to get pumped up! I totally felt like her! Although I wasn't brave enough to go as short as she did, her face is also a lot prettier than mine....!

      Thank you so much and I love how you acknowledged my Felicity moment! I love that show....

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    2. I marvel at how small and dainty her nose is... it's unreal.

      I remember commenting on your Golden Girls reference in the past (under a different user name)-- you have good taste in TV shows in my opinion!

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    3. Small and dainty? Wow. Thank you. I've never gotten that before.

      The funny thing about my nose is that whenever I'm with my mom people always tell us we have the same nose in which I tell them the only difference is that my mom paid for hers. : )

      The Golden Girls are amazing! You've inspired me to put on a few episodes while I prepare Valentine's Day dinner!

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  11. Loving the new look, and the story that inspired it!

    I had a car whose clutch once went in the fast lane at a roundabout on a dual carriageway. It was a hair raising experience I never want to repeat!

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    1. Thank you, Katy!

      Oh my!!!!! How did that possibly work out?! How terrifying! The car after my Volvo was a manual and driving up those hills in LA (for a first time manual driver!) was pretty much a nightmare for about two months, so I can only imagine how scared you were. Mon dieu!

      Thank you again, Katy!

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  12. You look so beautiful, and your story had me in tears too, for not so long ago, I lost my grandfather to cancer. One moment the entire family was home to celebrate his birthday, mere one month later we were told by doctors that his condition - which we thought was under control - had actually advanced to the final stages. I was actually at the airport, waiting to board a flight to go home to visit him, when my brother rang with the final sad news.

    I have not heard of Locks of Love before now, and in a few months, I think I will have the required length to make a donation of my own. Thank you.

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    1. Hi Lil,

      Thank you for sharing your story. Cancer is a little devil, it moves so fast. It can lie dormant for months, a year, then just like that, the patient is stage 4. I have seen it with many of my relatives. I'm sorry that you didn't get the final goodbye in person, I didn't get to say goodbye to my dad either, so I understand how sad and frustrating it is.

      Yes! That would be lovely if you participated! That was actually the point of sharing this with you all, to raise awareness. If short hair is all the rage this year, then why not go chic all around and donate it! Double fabulous!

      Thank you, Lil.

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  13. I love your new look. I've cut mine that short a few times, but it was always a disaster as my thick hair gets so big. I need the weight to hold it down!

    Your story about your dad is beautiful. And your mom really rocks. Not just for taking your dad to see you, but for telling you it was OK to live your life.

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    1. Thank you Madeleine! I'm pleased with the turnout, I also feel naked!

      I went to Toni and Guy because they specialize in short haircuts (for full and thin hair). She didn't just cut off the braid and that was it, she took out a lot of the volume by cutting up and shaving it, otherwise I too would look like a mushroom! The cut lasted about two hours! So there you go, even you can have short hair, you just need the right hands to do it.

      My mom is good like that. She saw no point in me returning to NY. I had a mission to fulfill and two years later, I did it and then moved back to NY. I'm grateful for her faith in me!

      Thank you for your comment. : )

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  14. Aw, that brought a tear to my eye, and I had a chuckle too at your Dad's last request. You look gorgeous!

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    1. Hahaha, isn't that an odd and funny request?! And Gwan, he was serious! My mom and I still laugh when we hear "Dreams", which went from a mediocre song that I used to change to a song I listen to, especially the crystal vision part.

      Thank you, dear! xoxooxoxox!!!!!!

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  15. A beautiful story, a beautiful do, and a beautiful soul. So glad you're in my life. Hugs xox

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    1. Duchesse, now you're going to make ME cry! Thank you so much and I'm so glad you're in my life. I really do enjoy our daily notes to each other. We certainly entertain each other. : )

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  16. Your new look: très cool, très French...

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  17. If there was a a "like " button I would like Mary Kays first comment.

    Thank you Lisa for this lovely poignant post.

    ...and I too love your new look. Love Denise.

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    1. I wish there were like options for comments too! I would like all of them! You are all so awesome. Thank you for your support, your kind words and for letting me be well, me on this blog.

      Thank you, Denise. It felt good to do it on so many levels that two days after I made my decision, I couldn't get the hair off fast enough. It's been nice tor revisit my dad this past week. : )

      xo!

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  18. There is nothing that I can type here that can fully convey how I felt while reading this post, I'm verging on speechless. You amazed me here, not only the talent you displayed in your words but YOU. Thank you for letting us into something so personal and for letting us get to know you a bit better. You Lisa, are truly beautiful inside and out. Your knew cut suits you xx

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    1. Sara Louise! Thank you. I'm tearing up again. You have all been so kind with your comments. I'm so honored to have such beautiful readers.

      Now, I need to head over by you and see what's going on. You must be on count down! It's happening so soon! Can't believe it...

      I finally washed it two days ago (I was terrified because I'm not one to give myself a good blow out) and uncoiffed it's very Pauly Shore but tamed with a flat iron it's very 60s. I think I'm going to have fun with it. From one curly haired girl to another...

      Thank you again for this comment. xo.

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  19. what a touching story and gorgeous act of love in memory. you look radiant!

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  20. Ella, thank you for writing this and sharing your story, I'm sure I'm one of many people who this will touch on a personal level too.
    It takes quite a talent for writing something which is both sad but inspiring at the same time, which makes people laugh and cry at the same time. Your parents sound wonderful, as do you. Well done going for the chop - you do look tres chic x

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    1. Hi Anna,

      Thank you! For the first time, I actually do feel chic! The first time I did the cut, I didn't know how to manage it and ended up looking electrocuted, so I'm glad this time around it's staying calm. I was nervous about the "post production" of the cut, to be honest.

      This was a story I had to be rewritten, straight out of the pages of my journal and I figured ten years later was appropriate!

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment. I'm so glad that Locks of Love is getting so much attention, because, they are the star of this post. I hope it inspires more donations!

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  21. wow what an amazing story - thanks so much for sharing! I can't imagine going through something similar and your courage is amazing.

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    1. Hi Jackie,

      Wow, thank you for reminding me that I'm courageous. It's something I tend to forget but manages to appear in even the worst of situations. We are all stronger than we think.

      Thank you for dropping a note. : )

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  22. You are beautiful inside and out. Whew did this make me cry. What a gorgeous tribute to all of your loved ones. Still crying.

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    1. Thank you so much, Heather. That is really so nice of you to say. Oy, I have been feeling out of sorts these days, reevaluating and questioning a few things, and it warms my heart to know that I have such kind internet friends. I sincerely hope we meet one of these days.

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  23. You're gorgeous with your bob! Throw your curls and cares away :-)

    Lauren
    a50lbwardrobe.tumblr.com

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    1. Oh hey girl! Thanks! My little ones didn't notice it AT ALL! LOL! How are your tiny tots?

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  24. Mademoisella Coquine — thank you for the birthday wishes over at Heather's!

    I just wanted to say very quickly, have no fear! I'll spare you the details but I don't think what happened to me will happen to you and your novel. Really. Like 99.999% sure.

    Speaking of bone-deep glamour I loved "a new version of me", you've got what it takes and your haircut is GREAT. Keep me posted about that book of yours, I want a copy!

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  25. You have such gorgeous hair! Someone will be very lucky to be able wear it on their head one day!

    Cheers,
    Alyson

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  26. Loved your beautifully written memory of your last joint-parental visit. Just lost my dad 10 months ago and seeing that weight loss the first time is such a shock. You found a positive with Locks of Love, and your new haircut is gorgeous!

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  27. Love, love the new do! Can you get it that straight on your own? I am always amazed at how straight my hair can get at the hands of my hairdresser. Beautiful. My daughter and niece donated to LOL in the past year!

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  28. Beautiful and touching story! Also - love your hair!

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