Breast Cancer Awareness Month: A Shmata by Any Other Name

10/15/2017 02:57 pm ET

That's it, she's finally lost it. I mean, who keeps a pair of underwear on the counter by the kitchen?

It was the first thing I thought as I walked into the house. It was the first thing I saw as I walked in the door.

Turns out it wasn't underwear after all. You could see where I might think it was, though. Small, round, aqua nylon with a cream colored lace trim around the edge, it certainly could have been. It wasn't until later that night when I finally saw what it was.

She took off her blonde wig. A shock as I hadn't seen her since she'd gotten it, since she needed it. So perfect I'm ashamed to admit I didn't realize it was a wig until she removed it, put it on its stand in her bedroom. The whole time I was there I was taken aback every time I walked into that room and saw the faceless head on her dresser.

Off next came the wig cap. You know, that piece of nylon that looks like something you pull over your face before robbing a bank.

Unnatural adornments dispensed with, I now got my first glimpse at what was beneath. Turns out it's perfection. Not yet an inch long and just exquisite. Salt and pepper with a slight wave. Grey around the temples highlighting her eyes. The eyes that change from blue to green. Blue today.

She is beautiful. Strong and independent and self reliant, and beautiful. She always was, but this . . . this is a different level of beauty. Maybe because of her inner strength, so evident these days. Or maybe just because of the nature of who she is, the dignity and grace with which she faces anything. Everything.

Whenever just stepping outside her door, like to get the paper, but not really going anywhere, she put it over her head. Not underwear, of course, but a little nylon cap. For now. Until she's ready.

A shmata (Yiddish for "rag").

It wasn't, of course, not even close. Pretty, actually, but that's how I thought of it. And it's her own fault. It's what she'd always call those tacky kerchiefs people used to wear and that association, once made in my mind, would not go away. A sleep cap, a head cap, a hat liner, call it what you will, it is what it is. And I suppose thinking of it as a shmata on her head is a step up from thinking of it as underwear, so there's that.

But when she wasn't going barely out her door in the shmata, or to the pool in her sun hat, or out more formally in the wig, we got to see the striking tones that make up her new look. The elegance with which she wears them. Fitting, I thought, the artistic beauty of her new aesthetic, a gift even. She liked it too, actually, although how could you not? I asked, one night, if she'd go to the restaurant like that but not yet, just a little more length on her forehead, fullness around the temples. Soon. She will know.

I will not be there when she first ventures out in her new natural look. I can't tell you how much I wish I were. I do hope that she will not discard her shmata, that she will put it away somewhere. It is a symbol of what was and what now is. It represents a past endured, dispensed with, defeated. It signifies a battle won. Again.

And although I will not be there to see it, I've seen the previews. And I know without a doubt that it will be a hit.

Strength, in all of it forms, is beautiful.

Especially on her.

A Shmata By Any Other Name originally published on Baking In A Tornado

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