We – the whole family – huddled around my youngest son, squinting at his chin. I tilted my head to get a better angle. “No, mama,” he instructed, “you have to look at it from the side.” Bobbing my head up and down, I strained to see. Even with his face illuminated by the two 100-watt bulbs in the fixture overhead, none of us could verify his claim.
The session began when he announced his enthusiastic participation in No-Shave November, an annual annoyance I thought my oldest son and his friends made up to aggravate their mamas. As it turns out, No-Shave November is a national month of ignoring personal hygiene to “raise awareness.”
That’s it. Just awareness.
My youngest son, jumping on the raising-awareness bandwagon, said that his friend Jackson counted no less than seven black beard hairs protruding from his chin and that he’s not going to shave them until December. He also said that his teachers confirmed the existence of this alleged growth.
“Really?” I asked, still peering at his cheeks, my eyeballs almost touching his baby-soft skin. I took his jaw in my hand and moved his head around to see if anything caught the light. “Your teachers told you that they can see hair on your chin?”
“Yes ma’am,” he asserted. “I told Mrs. Askew when she walked by my desk the other day that I’m doing No-Shave November. She looked straight at me and said, ‘Oh, I see you are.’ She saw them. She wouldn’t have said she did if she didn’t.”
“So, seven strands of beard silk, you say, growing wildly on your chinny-chin-chin,” I summarized.
He pulled his jaw from my hand. Standing at the lad’s other shoulder, his father also performed a thorough inspection. We wanted to give him affirmation and we did our best to find evidence that would enable us to clap him on the back and congratulate him on joining the ranks of the shoddy and unshaven.
“Watch out,” one of his older brothers, craning his neck to get a closer look, warned. “Mama will pull it if she finds it.”
The younger boy corrected his brother. We were not considering a single “it” here. We were considering seven.
“What?” I said, to the older boy.
“You yanked out my very first beard hair when I showed it to you. I had to wait another three months before I got to shave,” he complained.
I’m sure I was only playing. When he and his brothers were younger, they demanded that I do armpit checks for any signs of manly maturation. They giggled when I pretended to pluck preliminary hair growth from underarm follicles to make sure they would “always be my little boys.” How fast they outgrew these antics.
My youngest son ordered me not to snatch out his phantom facial hair. “I won’t,” I said. “I can’t even see it to get my fingertips on it.”
“Your eyes are too old to see them,” he accused. But his brothers and sister couldn’t see them either, which prompted him to snark, “Y’all just don’t want to see them. Y’all aren’t even trying.”
My oldest son, the old soul of the bunch, encouraged his sibling. “You’re lucky,” he said. “You won’t have to hear mama fussing at you about shaving on Thanksgiving morning. You can go to Thanksgiving dinner with seven beard hairs on your chin.” He made quotation marks with his fingers when he said “seven beard hairs.”
I could see in my baby boy’s eyes that he wants me to nag him about shaving on Thanksgiving morning. My search was suddenly successful.