Monday, August 31, 2015

The Barbershop

Visiting a barbershop was not something most girls did in the waning hours of the afternoon when school let out.  I’m not even sure how it all started, but when I was a kid, one of my besties, Carol, and I used to walk along Jefferson Avenue in Detroit on our way home from school.  It was just part of our daily routine in the late sixties.  One of the businesses we passed was a barbershop with its red, white and blue pole swirling near the door.  All of the local gents got haircuts at Andy’s including Carol’s dad and my grandpa.  Andy was hardly a stranger, but not normally someone we’d hang out with.  I remember his thick accent that to my young ears sounded Scottish, but may have been Irish or English.  I’m not even sure his first name was ‘Andy’, but that was what everyone called him.

Andy always had a smile and for some reason took a liking to Carol and me.  He’d see us walking by and wave.  We’d wave back.  Before long, and only if he wasn’t busy, we’d step inside the shop just to say hello.  That’s when we learned that Andy had a son named David and. let it be known to all, Andy was one proud Poppa!  David was an actor currently working in England in a Peter Ustinov production of ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’.  David played Charlie.  Whenever Andy received a letter from his son, he’d wave us in with such excitement you would have thought he’d heard from the Queen herself.  Carol and I would each settle in one of his chairs and he would read David’s letter out loud. 
One particular afternoon, we were walking by and Andy waved us in.  He had a letter in his hand that he wanted to share, but there were customers waiting.  We looked at each other and made an executive decision—we didn’t stop.  We simply waved and kept on going.  The next afternoon, Andy was waiting for us.  His arms folded and a frown on his normally happy face.  “You girls saw me waving at you yesterday, but you didn’t come in.”

“You had a lot of customers,” we tried to explain.  “We didn’t want to be a bother.”
“I don’t care if my customers are hanging off the ceiling,” he shook his head.  “If I wave you girls in, you come inside.”  And just like that he was smiling again.  “I got a letter from David.” 

So in we went and this time Andy was very pleased.  David had mentioned his sister.  Andy’s daughter had died some time ago.  I believe she had cancer and she left a husband and small children.  David apparently was devastated and never talked about her—until now.  Andy just couldn’t wait to share that bit of news with us.  One afternoon, he waved us in not because he had heard from David, but because he had gotten a handwritten note from Dame Judith Anderson singing his son’s praises.  She was impressed not only with his talent, but also his work ethic and gentlemanly ways.  She wanted Andy to know what a fine son he'd raised.  I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The barbershop is long gone and I’m sure Andy is no longer with us.  I don’t know what happened to David, but I will always remember our visits with Andy and the way his face lit up whenever he received a letter from his son.