“Okay.” said Christie. “It started quite a few years ago when I was diagnosed with childhood leukemia.” When she said that there was a gasp from people in the crowd. Christie, looking at them in the mirror, gave a big reassuring smile. “It’s okay, everyone,” she said, “that’s long ago. I’ve been very lucky — I’ve now been clear for over five years. But at the time it wasn’t fun — I had to go through chemo and yes, I did lose all my hair. But the hospital people were wonderfully caring and they arranged for me to have a natural-looking wig so I could go back to school without feeling self-conscious. You can tell that was a while ago,” she added with another smile, “because what I’m about to lose is all mine.”
People laughed, then there was a pause before Christie went on, looking more serious. “Anyway, long after it was all over I got to thinking about how some stranger out there had donated beautiful hair so I could have a wig. And I began to wonder if I could do the same for others who had need for nice wigs. People — kids and adults — going through chemo. People with alopecia. People who have suffered severe burns”.
” Well, I talked with my best friend, Meredith — that’s her down there towards the end of the row — and we decided to do it together. But then it seemed to get a life of its own. We’d gone on the internet to find out what the process was and while we were browsing we came across an item about how two brothers, guys in high-school, had lost their mother to cancer and, in memory of her, grew their hair so they could donate it for wigs, just like girls were doing. When we read that I thought it was kind of cool, but Meredith got seriously excited and went off home, saying she’d ask her twin-brother, Joe ” — Christie pointed to me, at the far end of the row — ” if he’d grow his hair too.”
“I really didn’t think Meredith would talk Joe into it”, Christie continued, “but before she left she made me promise to ask Andy, that’s my brother” — Christie nudged the boy next to her — “if he would too. To my surprise he said he would if Joe would. Then minutes later Meredith was on the phone, all excited, saying Joe had said yes. And then Andy talked to Greg his friend, and after a bit of uncertainty he agreed too. The guys have said they thought it would be kind of cool to do something their friends wouldn’t dare to do themselves. After that it took a bit of persuasion to get parents to agree — they started off sure the boys wouldn’t go through with it — and then we were afraid that the school board would object, but our principal, Mr.Thompson — he’s here today — was really supportive and he got the okay. What then ? Well the wig people need a minimum length of ten inches. We thought the boys could probably manage that in about two-an-a-half years — Meredith and I already had a head start” she laughed, ” but we decided to go a full three years so there would be some inches to spare. Looking back, I know the boys found it tough. Sometimes kids and adults would hassle them and quite often people though they were girls. But they’re troopers and they hung in there. So here we are today” she finished proudly, holding up the ponytail that Cathy had handed to her. Then she looked in the mirror and shook her head so that her chin-length hair swung across her face. “Wow ” she said. ” I love it ! ” And there was laughter and applause from the crowd.
As Christie was talking, Meredith leaned over to me. “What did Joanne decide?” she whispered. I didn’t answer, but Joanne was very much in my mind as I thought back over the last eight years.