Locks of Love—Cheryll Snow's Keepsake Story

Project Keepsake celebrates objects—quilts, rings, fishing lures, pocket knives, cake pans, etc.—that bind us to powerful memories. Keepsakes can be anything—anything—that keeps memories alive.

Over the weekend, Tennessee-based writer Cheryll Snow shared a very moving keepsake story with me that hits this point home. I enjoyed her story titled, "Locks of Love." Indeed, Cheryll's story has inspired me to write about a very unusual keepsake my mother had been keeping until recently. I'll share Mom's story ("The Frozen Peas") with you soon, but for now, enjoy "Locks of Love."

Thanks again, Cheryll, and good luck polishing your manuscript. I look forward to buying and reading your book in the future.

My mother was a simple woman, born and raised in the foothills of Ohio in the 1940’s. Times were tough, and she enjoyed few luxuries growing up. But the one thing she treasured and spent considerable time and effort on was her hair.

Mom had beautiful hair. From an early age, she loved to try out different styles and trends. Looking at pictures of her from childhood to middle age is like thumbing through a hair-styling magazine in a beauty salon.

As a small child, she sported a short pixie cut with razor-straight bangs. Then came barrettes and hair bands in grade school. As a teenager, she graduated to long brunette locks with a side part and gorgeous waves. She was rocking the Cindy Crawford look before Cindy was even born!

My mother never finished high school. At seventeen, she met my father, who was a submarine sailor in the United States Navy. After a whirlwind courtship they eloped, and over the next thirty-one years, my father took my mother all over the world and did his best to spoil her.

One of her favorite ways to pamper herself was going to a hair salon, something her family couldn’t afford when she was young. Over the years, there were pin curls and perms, bouffants and bobs, and an unfortunate wedge in the ‘80s that Mom couldn’t grow out fast enough. The one thing she didn’t do to her hair was change the color. Her natural color was a dark mahogany brown, a prettier shade than anything from a bottle, with auburn highlights in the summer from days spent on the beach and gardening in the sun. She gave in a bit however in her forties – “just a wash” – to cover those dreaded grays.

When my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of forty-eight, our family was devastated. Mom was especially dismayed when the neurosurgeon told her they would have to shave her head in the operating room. The night before her surgery, I spent some extra time with Mom, brushing her thick, luxurious hair while she shed more than a few tears.

After her operation, she woke up in the intensive care unit with a blue surgical bonnet covering her head. Once she got her bearings, the first thing she did was to yank off the bonnet and ask for a mirror. She stared at her reflection for a long time, gingerly running a hand over her bare head, careful not to touch the railroad track of staples and sutures on the right side. Then she dropped the mirror on the bed and asked us to put the cap back on.

“It’ll grow back,” I told her.

In her drug-induced stupor, the only thing she said was, “Okay.”

A nurse came into the room and handed my father a clear, zip-lock bag. “The scrub nurse in the O.R. saved this for you,” she told him.

It was my mother’s hair.

I don’t know what prompted the nurse to do that – no one asked her to do it – but I’m so glad she did. Contrary to our hopes, the subsequent chemo and radiation treatments left her with permanent hair loss, and only a few wispy strands grew back. My father spared no expense in finding my mom two of the finest wigs money could buy. But it wasn’t the same.

She lost her battle to cancer a year later. But I still have a piece of her with me – her hair. I’ve kept that zip-lock bag for more than twenty years now, wrapped in tissue paper and tucked away in a box in my bureau drawer. It may sound strange to some, but once in while I take the bag out and open in, and the scent of my mother comes back to me all over again, reminding me of everything good about my childhood and what a wonderful, giving person she was.

I know it’s not your typical keepsake. But it means more to me than the trinkets or pieces of jewelry or any of the other material possessions she handed down to me. If a keepsake’s intention is to bring back those good feelings and memories associated with that individual, then mom’s “locks of love” work just fine.
— Cheryll Snow
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Cheryll Snow is a wife, mother, grandmother, author, and RN. She enjoys writing, reading, gardening, travel, and spoiling her grandson rotten. 

I know you have a keepsake—or two, or three. Share your story with me and the world and help keep storytelling alive.

Project Keepsake is on sale with free shipping and handling. It's great gift item, especially for the holidays. Buy it right here right now, and get a free bookmark.