Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father’s Day 2008: Mowing the Meadow, Shaving The Chocolate

[Cross-posted at IOC.]

Via The Moderate Voice:

Father’s Day 2008: Mowing the Meadow, Shaving The Chocolate

June 13th, 2008 by DR. CLARISSA PINKOLA ESTÉS, TMV Columnist


(I’d prepared this article earlier to run during the day today, but in no way wanted to put a clang in the middle of the news and memoriums about the passing of Tim Russert. I hope it is alright to post it now overnight as the shocks of the day begin to recede a little. This piece was meant to commemorate bright moments that most often occur in the most mundane ways between fathers and sons.)

When I was a little girl, my dad used a rough brush and a heavy porcelain mug to lather up, and then a straight razor to shave. Don’t touch, don’t touch, he’d say when he laid the razor down on the little sink. In fascination I watched him shave. Just like I learned to cook from my mother, by watching…if I’d been a son, I’d have learned to shave just by watching my father; how to make the facial grimaces, how to tilt your head, how to sweep the razor up on this part, and across on that part.

Every night, every day, my dad’s face grew a beard, over and over. That was amazing to me. Something taken away, kept coming back. His strength. As a man. It isn’t too much to say.

Your dad too, no doubt, would he nick himself and just go on shaving while the blood ran down his throat? Wasn’t that amazing to you when you were little? And the tiny yelps when he put the styptic on? And the tiny bits of tp? And how cool and smooth his cheek was after, no more chinny-chin-chins until nighttime? Now just sweet smelling and tender cheeked. For a while. Off to work he would go. The scent of his shaving strangely holding ‘the father place’ in the house, his fragrances of soap and hot water and cologne lingering in the air long after he was gone.

And I wonder how other fathers taught their sons to shave… did the sons when they were little, like we did, even us little girls, quietly reach into the tiny medicine cabinet hanging over the sink, and sneak the blade and give it a few whishes on the strop behind the door, then soap our faces, and as carefully as we could, draw the darker roads through the white lather? Wasn’t there something so seeming magical about that? And some secret giddiness in having touched the tools of the king?

Or maybe, like in the picture, some father, uncle, friend, even mother, taught the boys to shave? It must have been a moment for a man; the first real shave; mustache, beard, clean shaven, half and half, learning that careful throat art nonetheless.

Maybe that moment of ‘first ritual shave’ is only half recorded in a grown man’s memory. But, maybe too, it’s still one of the bright pride lines of that time when the world cracked open for a young male… and suddenly out stepped a knowing but inexperienced man … who only moments before had been just a very, very experienced boy…

‘Shaving the meadow,’ or ‘mowing the front forty (acres)’ or ‘raking the field,’ is how some men in the backwoods where I grew up spoke of the manly morning ritual. One of my black friends charmed me utterly by saying, ‘Ok, gots to go shave some chocolate now.’

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