Combing through childhood memories

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017

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Sometimes the most random items evoke the warmest memories, worming their way into your heart.

I have a collection of them – a bookmark, ink pen and a tiny wrench, among others, and as I recently discovered, to the chagrin of my family, a Big Red Comb.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

In a bout of last-minute packing, and the whereabouts of multiple hair brushes unknown, I brought the Big Red Comb to my daughter and suggested she toss it in her bag.

“But you can’t lose it,” I warned her. “I’ve had it forever.”

I was suddenly nervous, reluctant to let it leave the house.

My daughter noted my hesitation, looked from the comb to me and said with a laugh that she didn’t need it. She would use a friend’s brush.

I was instantly relieved.

This was a few weeks ago, and the funny thing is I have no recollection of where my daughter was going or why we couldn’t find her brush. All I remember is clutching the Big Red Comb and a growing concern that it could be lost forever.

I slipped it back inside my bathroom drawer, a bit embarrassed, and surprised, by my attachment.

I’ve had the comb since I was a little girl, and although it’s unclear how it came to belong to the Talley family, we’ve had it for about 35 years.

The brand name is actually Tangle Tamer, but we always called it the Big Red Comb because, well, that’s what it is – a big, red comb.

My grandmother, who was a beautician in nearby Saint Jo, gave it to my mom because my sister and I had long, straight hair that tangled easily, and she thought the Big Red Comb would help.

When trying to verify this memory, my mom said she thought we bought it at Wal-Mart. My sister’s only memory of the comb was Mom using it to spank her.

“I didn’t remember it having a connection to MaMa’s beauty shop, but I definitely remember the comb,” she said.

Since my memory is the sweetest, let’s go with that. Plus, I’ve never been able to find a comb exactly like it, reinforcing my belief that it was special-ordered from beauty supply, along with luxurious shampoos and permanent solutions.

When I left home for college, the Big Red Comb had to stay behind. It was a piece of community property, like so many things my sister and I shared, and it was up to me to find a replacement. I searched and searched, even found a comb or two that looked just like it, although a different color, but alas, none of them could tame a tangle like Big Red.

It must be the only one in the world.

When my sister left for college, she didn’t take it with her (and now I understand why), so it remained at my parents’ house for years. I don’t know if my mom used it or not. When my parents moved from my childhood home in 2004, they got rid of a lot of things, and my mom asked me if I wanted the comb.

I jumped at the chance. Even though my hair is now short, it still gets tangled, and Big Red is still the best.

Oddly enough, it brings back good memories. I think about my sister, cousin and I sneaking into my grandmother’s salon for a spin in the chairs, making them go as fast as we could, before being caught. I remember the stink of permanent solution and being excited to get our hair washed with “fancy” shampoo.

The beauty shop was attached to my grandparents’ house, and we wore out the door that went between the two. That is until we were told to stay put … in the house.

We’d catch a bit of gossip, sit on the front step and listen to the squeak of the metal beauty shop sign on a nearby stand blowing in the wind.

The Big Red Comb may not count as a family heirloom, but it holds some pretty sweet memories for me.

Kristen Tribe is editor of the Wise County Messenger.

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