Whenever I take our younger son to the barber shop, I'm reminded of time's passage and the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90: "Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart." Something about this barber shop, which I have been taking our sons to for a decade now, makes me reflect on the unfolding of time. I took Lucky for a haircut last weekend. What a privilege it is to watch our children grow up.
I first started going to this barber shop, then called Santo's Barber Shop after a long-deceased owner, in our small town's central shopping district when our older son was three. Now 13, he shuns the place, connecting it with the crewcuts of his early years. Instead, he has me take him to a stylist in a unisex salon who can work with his kinky hair.
But Lucky, who is ten and a half, doesn't mind the $12 haircuts. The first time I took Lucky to the barber shop, he was three, and his bright blond ringlets reached to his shoulders. The barber propped a wooden board between the arms of the metal chair so our son could sit at a good working height, where the barber could easily reach him. The vinyl cape covered his body. I stood behind the barber, anxious for my son to keep still so as not to be cut by the razors or scissors. He sat as still as a statue as his blond ringlets fell to the tiled floor. These days, I don't hover behind the barber. I read a magazine, eavesdrop on conversations, or knit.
My favorite former newspaper boss, Chuck Paolino (who happens to be a Catholic deacon), has blogged about the beauty of barber shops. "Places like that barber shop have always interested me because of the role they play in a community that transcends the immediate purpose of their existence," he writes.
Time passes. Little boys outgrow crewcuts and lollipops and grow into young men. God's hand is everywhere in this unfolding. When St. Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he wrote a letter to the church in Ephesus, where he had ministered for years: "Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord. "
May these words serve as a guide on how to count our days.