I fear I’m growing my uncles’ eyebrows. My dad had wonderful thick hair. When it grew shaggy waiting for a haircut, it swooped across his glasses as he swayed over the piano. My three uncles sport increasingly unmanageable eyebrows. Long and lush lashes are fashionable – painted and even glued on for glamour shots. On women anyway. But eyebrows are managed.
They’re larger than life, these uncles, so important as I grew up. Each gave me something I didn’t even know I needed.
Brad was a musical compass for me. My family is full of musicians and singers. I married a rock and roll bass man. We sang as a family around the piano for generations. My father at the helm accompanying us through carols and hymns, musicals and show tunes all the way to Handel’s Messiah. Brad is the jazz man. A clarinetist of exceptional talent, I was enthralled when I listened to him play. The music I hear in my head was shaped by all those hours and hours of music but none was more impactful than Brad’s noodling around a melody. Dad had studied piano in college and his practice was a constant in my life until he died. Brad would improvise in and around my father’s scales and arpeggios. He would find another line into and around Mozart, Chopin and Bach. Jazz was the first love of my life. Brad’s eyebrows were hidden by a downward facing clarinet playing posture but full on, they were full and burly.
Uncle Jim was a musical influence. A life long church choir member, his perfect hearing and near perfect pitch always kept us in line during summer sing-alongs. The gathered family musicians were many times that of my leg of the family. Jim was a lawyer in Boston. His business-like manner when organizing expeditions or planning dinner always seemed impressive. I went to school in Boston for a time. There was always a safe warm haven at Uncle Jim’s house. I’m sure Jim’s professional reputation was due in part to copious eyebrow maintenance. More lax later in life, the curly hairs popped out here and there.
Uncle Arthur was my dad’s older brother. They were close in age, a bit older than their brothers and spent their early childhood in Holland. Arthur stayed in Europe as an adult and had two twenty-plus year marriages to French women, one of whom shares my birthdate exactly 10 years apart. This odd intergenerational pattern repeated elsewhere in my family. My family lived in France when I was born. I spent my beginning years there and returned twice to my first home there. The first time I returned, I was 10 and spent my days caring for my toddler cousin. The other was when I was just 18 and after a tour of Paris an its outskirts, I spent a few months at my aunt’s family’s house in the North of France. It was a vacation home near the ocean and I cared for the family grandchildren and learned to speak French the hard way. That last trip was thanks to my Uncle Arthur who answered the call of his bored, ready for life to start, awkward teenage niece. Arthur’s eyebrows were award winning! They grew long curling around his glasses and reaching into the air like crazy plant legs or some sort of sea shrub.
As I look closely in the mirror and inspect my face, turning from side to side, I remember my uncles, and yank out those couple of hairs I see trying to escape my minimally manicured brows.
Cheers to – many years since my last post; 2021, a year I remember daydreaming about how old I would be then; and the reach to find something meaningful to pursue.