The Hair on my Chinny Chin Chin

Looking in the mirror, I gasped. Under my chin was a long, dark hair. I reached for my tweezers.

As I tried to get the fine, single hair in a metallic pincer grasp, I remembered a phone conversation I once had with my mother.

My ninety-year old Grandma lived in an assisted living apartment, but she insisted she did not need any assistance. She wanted to be self-sufficient, just as she had always been. Her eyesight, however, was not cooperating. Her washed dishes were not as clean as they used to be. Dust, which never would have been tolerated in her younger years, collected on the antique furniture. She couldn’t see the fine, white hairs on her chin. “I want to pluck them for her!” Mom told me. Such a simple thing, and yet so difficult to bring up to Grandma.

Grandma was a stoic woman. She did not express emotions easily. When I saw her, I would hug her bony frame gently and tell her I loved her. “Mmm-hmmm,” she would say. As the family gathered around my dying grandfather’s bedside, tears flowed freely–except from Grandma. She wanted to explain herself. “I do feel sad, I just don’t cry,” she told me.


Growing up with stiff, seemingly unloving parents had been difficult for Mom. In her sixties, she was still intimidated by her own mother. But those long, white hairs on my grandmother’s chin bothered her. Every time Mom drove Grandma to get her hair done, or to the acupuncturist, or to buy groceries, she just wanted to pluck out them out! She was afraid, however, that she would offend Grandma if she brought it up.

A couple of days later, I heard from Mom again. “I did it!” she said.

“What did Grandma say?” I asked.

“She told me to never let her go out with chin hairs again!” Mom was relieved that Grandma had accepted her help.

Three years ago, just a couple of days after Thanksgiving, Grandma sat stoically in a chair. Her back was as straight as usual, her hands were folded in her lap. Staring at the casket in front of her, she did not have a tear in her eye. We all knew she was mourning her daughter in her own way.

Just three months later, we were saying goodbye to Grandma, each in our own way.

I stared in the mirror, wishing Mom had grown old. Wishing her eyesight had failed, her hands had grown shaky, so that I could pluck out her chin hairs for her.

I plucked; tears filled my eyes at the sudden pain. Too many tears for such a small, errant hair.

Mom, my sister, and Lily–Mom was laughing because she thought Lily was feeling her “chin whiskers.”
VOTY 2013
I’m honored that this essay was chosen as a Voice of the Year by BlogHer in 2013.



On Friday, I had the urge to make popcorn. It did not involve throwing a paper bag lined with God-knows-what into the microwave, but instead: a heavy pot, a stove, oil and popcorn kernels. I shook the pan over the stove like a madwoman, to keep the oil from burning. Then pop! pop! poppoppoppoppoppoppoppop! until the pot was filled with the white fluffy food almost to overflowing. Dumping the hot popcorn into large bowls, I waited until the pot cooled a little before putting pats of butter in it to melt. I poured the butter over the popcorn, salted it, and served it to my girls as an afternoon snack.

Popcorn. Just the way my mom used to make popcorn for us. Freshly popped, heavy on the butter and salt, delicious.

It has been a long time since I last tasted my mother’s popcorn. We used to have popcorn every Sunday night. Mom had already made a big Sunday dinner for us to eat after church; Sunday evening was her time to relax, to not cook. If we wanted something else to eat, that was fine, but we had to fix it ourselves. I ate a lot of cheese sandwiches with my popcorn on Sunday nights.

It seems like my mom pops into my head a lot these days as I’m cooking meals for my family. On Halloween, I made her chili recipe in the crock pot. It was a great, warm meal to come home to after trick-or-treating in the cold weather. Tonight, I made homemade pizza just the way Mom taught me.  Mom told me every now and then that she was tired of cooking for all six of us. She would complain about how she couldn’t think of anything to make for dinner. I would always compliment her cooking; I loved her meals. But now, as I struggle to make dinner for the family every night, I know how she felt.

I also know that even though she got tired of cooking dinner, she loved seeing the family come together at the dinner table. As I make her recipes and come up with my own recipes, I have wonderful memories of the meals she made.

Even of the meals that consisted of nothing but popcorn.

Mom husking corn with Lily and Emmy.

Second Blooming

In memory of Mom