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I could hear Gill groaning, then yelping in pain from the bathroom. “Are you all right?” I yelled.

“No! I’m trying to brush my hair!” came the anguished reply.

“Oh, for the love of god…”

She came out, looking like she’d just run an egg beater through her locks. It was considerably worse than the tangled bedhead with which she’d entered the bathroom. “I thought you said you were brushing your hair…”

“No. I started off trying to use your brush, then it hurt so much and made things more tangled so I switched to a comb. This is what happened with that. Have you got an electric shaver? I think I’ll just be done with hair and shave my entire head.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! You’re not Poochie.” (Years ago, when Poochie’s long, white fur got matted after we missed one grooming appointment and the vet suggested shaving her fur lest she get maggots, I recall Gill’s delight with that solution. I guess she figured if it was good enough for Poochie, it was good enough for her.) “Surely it must be possible to get out those tangles. Here, let me try.”

“No! Step away from the brush! Do not touch my hair. I wouldn’t let you brush it when I was a child. I am not starting now. Besides, what good will that do me when I’m back in England in my own flat and I have to do it myself?”

“But I don’t understand. How have you been managing all these years?”

“I had my hair cut short…very short. But now I decided it would be easier to let it grow long so I can just tuck it into a ponytail and be done with it. Easy-peasy.”

“This is easy?”

“Well, I may have been a bit overly optimistic. Perhaps the solution is a new hairbrush — one that is gentle but still gets tangles out. Where do you buy such hairbrushes? Never mind…I’ll Google it.” And off she set, tangles flying, to consult with her laptop.

After searching drug store websites and coming up short, I suggested there might be a local ‘beauty supply shop’ that would sell brushes. Bingo! We found Sally’s Beauty Supplies — and it was close to home. Perusing the website, she discovered something called a  boar’s hair brush — with soft bristles. “That’s it!” she screamed. “Let’s go visit Sally.”

And so we did. They displayed row upon row of brushes — every kind one could imagine–and some we couldn’t. Not wanting to make an ill-informed or hasty choice, Gill accosted the clerk and explained her dismal situation of tangles and asked her advice. As she sought to demonstrate her predicament, she pulled off her toque and her tangles sprung to life in all their twisted, matted glory. The clerk recovered quickly after her initial gasp and look of horror. She explained the virtues of each and every brush — including the favored boar’s hair brush. Gill was sold! She paid for the     hair brush and left the shop full of optimism that she had finally, after some 40 years, solved the most vexing of her life’s problems.

She spent the next hour brushing her locks. “Oh, it’s so soft, Ma!” she pronounced. The look of pure bliss on her face was truly something to behold. “But it isn’t great at removing the tangles. Oh, well, at least I like brushing my hair now. That’s progress, right?”

It was…sort of. At least she’d go out in the world with her hair brushed. That was a victory. Baby steps, baby steps….