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I Have Vacation Hair, on Birthday Eve

When I used to travel as a kid, especially to Florida, my hair and eyes would change color.

With my nearly black hair under constant vacation sun, and with my hazel eyes that flash green in sadness and anger, it’s not hard to imagine those colorful possibilities. It’s perspective, colored with a little sun and air and change and YOU.

When you travel sometimes you remember all the things you don't want to remember about yourself, but sometimes use it as a chance to effect positive change.

The thing is, you’re different on vacation. It’s different air and water. It’s shared spaces or different shared spaces. I had four siblings as a kid, and have experienced shared bathrooms/bedrooms, but even that is different on vacation. It’s not a rambling, three-story, six-bedroom house to share. It’s often a condo or set of hotel rooms. You’re not in your own element, necessarily, and you don’t have your own elements of beauty and comfort. You’re trying to find space, or to fight for it.

And admit it – you’re also fighting against that vacation hair.

Unless you vacation in the west, in which case your hair is perfect. Or unless you’re one of those people who can achieve perfect salty, beachy waves with all that humidity. My kids have got that down like pros. Vacation hair professionals.

Sometimes, when you’re on vacation, you may slip back into your childhood self – fighting for space, attention, hair gel, and someone to want to walk on the beach with you. One footprint in front of the other. Two sets of footprints, side by side.

It’s endlessly fascinating. You see, I’m someone who can disappear. And I’m someone in bright color too. I’ll never stop searching for answers whether it’s super powers, being an ambivert, the super powers of being an ambivert, fears of abandonment, riding on the cusp between being a Cancer and a Leo, experiencing my father’s death, or growing up with four squabbling siblings – each one trying to carve their own square of happiness, and best position in the minivan/Suburban.

Maybe it’s all perspective, like hair and eyes and humidity, and wrinkled clothes out of a suitcase.

Maybe it’s space and time, and every skin you shed when you grow, and every skin you reattach when you feel threatened. Back into the cocoon, back into the molting, back into the regression, the abyss, the black hole – unable to see just how far and wide and stretched you’ve come. You’ve become. You’re becoming. You’re so colorful sometimes, and you can’t see it.

I remember traveling during those formative preteen years. I’d have my vacation hair (vacation bangs in vacation humidity!) and my not quite right clothing choices – having packed in a haste so as to be done with it – and I’d see other kids my age on vacation. I’d want to say, “I swear I’m cool in real life! I really am!” And they’d probably say back, “Suuuuure you are.” Just kidding. They’d probably shout back, telepathically, “I swear I’m cool in real life too but I’m somewhat freaking out because I have vacation hair and I want to know if my needs are being met, and if I’m being seen, and if I’m being swallowed up by my family in this crowded place, in this new place.” At least, that’s what I now imagine they’d say.

I used to think I was the most awkward, disoriented, fearful human alive. Turns out there’s lots of us. And we’re brave too.

I never actually struggled as much as you might have thought. I always had friends, vacation bangs and all. There’s always been a block – in which it’s hard for me to keep them close and for so long; luckily a few always slip through small filters.

Like tiny insects getting into the screens of our beach house! Only much nicer.

The thing about progress is that it sticks forever, but one small move, one small doubt, and you think it erases everything. I’m learning that they can’t see that. They might see a photographer, or a writer, or both. They might see color and brilliance and vibrancy and talent. I hope they see kindness and inspiration, or have at least once. Maybe they see charisma.

My kids? They see their mama. And nothing going on inside my head erases that.

When you travel sometimes you remember all the things you don't want to remember about yourself, but sometimes use it as a chance to effect positive change.

Even if I see an awkward girl – fading, hideous, incapable.

There’s never been a clear reason to feel this way, although most likely, the reason I do is as clear as day and night. And it’s funny how with vacation hair and vacation thoughts, I can’t see the progress, but I feel it in everything. Like when they sing “Happy Birthday” to me at the dinner table, and smile/entertain my kids while I doze with the new Jennifer Weiner book on my chest. It’s the way I might steal away for ten minutes to get dressed, and Des will say, “Where WERE you for so long?”

So I sneak here to write notes. Both kids come in and silently fold themselves into my embrace. The dog does too.

The thing is, I’m not invisible. I’m just partly hidden sometimes.

And I can’t wait to figure out how to make that feeling – and not myself – grow smaller and dimmer in the rearview mirror.

These are all iPhone photos, and camera phones shall follow.. one day(ish).

Can you relate?

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21 Comments

  1. Omg, I cannot believe these (especially that first one of Scarlet and Athena) were iPhone photos! You, my friend, are amazing at what you do photography wise. As for vacation, I am still coming off our recent one and trying to get back into the swing of things. Hoping yours was just as magical though and also once again wish you a very, Happy (early) birthday now!! <3

    1. The iPhone does such magical things! Now I use it for whole posts sometimes, and just hope no one can tell the difference. I can tell, though!

  2. Beautiful photos and Happy Birthday Eve! I love that everyone is coming to embrace you. Birthdays are funny and but always welcomed! Enjoy!

  3. Happy early birthday, Tamara! Hope you have a wonderful day tomorrow and that you get some time to hide out 🙂 Vacation bangs are the best. Vacation friends are also the best. Love the photos you’ve shared here, too. Rainbow sprinkles 4ever.

  4. Wow! She is growing up. Such beautiful photos capturing her beauty! I love vacation hair. Mine gets super curly. It just feels so good to let it all go…

  5. I have basically always wanted your hair. I am an “80s” girl at heart, and have tried all things to make my hair big and full and luscious. Not to be! Now I’m old enough that I don’t care. If I can be on a beach, I’m there – no matter what it does to my hair. Actually, getting gray hair has thickened my hair up a bit, so it isn’t all bad!

  6. So um, yes yes yes HAPPY BIRTHDAY and yes yes yes YOUR PICS ARE AMAZINGLY beautiful as always.

    But let me tell you- your writing is what WINS in this incredible post. And that is what takes my breath AWAY.

    Tamara, you are just so gifted. With words. I will celebrate your gift of words on your birthday. They hold introspective beauty. They hold bold transparency They hold illuminating wonder that eases into the reader’s heart so fluently without disconnect or distraction or question. Your words are organic, truthful, and brave. Your words are magical, masterful, and magnetic in their simplicity, brilliance, and depth. Your words always read like poetry to me- wooing me in, warming my weary mind, and filling me up with these tiny sparks of inspiration and meditation.

    So yeah, THAT is what I celebrate on your birthday. I adore you, your pictures and your friendship.

    But it’s your WORDS that deserve the attention here.

  7. No real vacations for us this year as we have been struggling with health issues, but my hair is kind of big from the monsoons. Does that count? Happy birthday to you my friend! Thanks for the happy pictures.

  8. I’m very much like you and I’ve also noticed that we’re not alone and yes, we’re oh so brave as well. I personally can’t imagine you not having “vacation hair”, but you deserve it on your birthday. Here’s hoping you had an amazing birthday my beautiful friend.

  9. Yes, how I can relate! I still to this day sometimes feel invisible, even when I’m surrounded by people. I’ve discovered, though, that I don’t feel this way at all with my family or my very close group of friends from college, or one-on-one (or on two) with good friends who aren’t part of that group. But I’m amazed how I still continue to feel out of my element, and that seems especially to be the case when I’m on vacation.

  10. can i ask what kind of iphone you have? those are gorgeous pictures. i have this expensive camera (only a point and shoot, but still expensive), yet i never carry it around. whereas i always have my iphone 6 with me.

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