"LEARNING TO SHAVE"
I always wanted to be like my dad. Whatever dad did - I wanted to do as well. I remember watching him shave. There was some amount of awe and wonder watching him do it.
What a ritual that was! There were specific steps taken in the exact same order every time. The first thing dad would do was open up the "medicine cabinet" above the bathroom sink and take out his razor, shaving mug, and shaving brush. Warm water then went into the sink once you put the rubber plug with the chain on it firmly into the drain hole. The razor and brush would then soak in the warm water for an appropriate amount of time.
Let's talk about these implements before we go any further.
The razor was a "safety razor" although God only knows why it was called a safety razor - because dad's face would still take nicks and cuts. I guess it was "safety" because 90% of the blade was covered, so you could only make about a 1/4 inch deep cut in your skin. Most arteries are probably deeper than that.
The blades dad used were "Wilkinson Sword". Each one was individually wrapped in paper. When it was time for a new blade - the old blade was taken out of the razor and inserted into a small rectangular hole in the back of the medicine cabinet. It wasn't until years later that I realized that they still had to end up somewhere. I guess the idea was you'd just drop 'em into the wall and nobody would ever worry about them again. Huh!
The brush and mug were probably a set. I can't remember the type of shaving soap dad used in the bottom of the mug.
After the razor and brush had soaked a while, dad would flick off the majority of the water from the brush and then start working up the soap into a lather. He would then take the time to work that lather into his face with the brush. When it was done to his liking, he would grab the razor.
It was just magic how that razor took all the foam off his face. He would start with his cheeks and then do above his lip, under his mouth and finally his neck. There were certain "faces" that dad would make so that the appropriate area to be shaved was pulled tight. It was a complete face muscle workout that took a bit of time.
Then there was quality control when dad would put down everything and rub every surface of his face and neck feeling for stubble. He ALWAYS found some. At that point, the brush would make more lather in the mug, and the appropriate areas would be covered and shaved again, always using a different angle than the first time through. (e.g. first time on the neck - the stroke was down... Redo - the stroke was up...)
Warm water then was splashed on to get all the rest of the soap off. The towel was pressed and then dad would look for the cuts. There would usually be one or two, and dad would wet a piece of toilet paper and stick it to the cut. Dad would emerge from the bathroom clean-shaven, in a white tee shirt with little red toilet paper dots on his neck.
I couldn't wait to start shaving. I remember checking my face every day, just praying for a whisp of hair to appear so that I could justify beginning the daily ritual - proof that I was leaving boyhood behind and becoming a man!
I probably started shaving at around 15 years of age, but I don't remember exactly when it started. I now sport a beard (and the reason I ended up with a beard is another story for another day). For a while, I used foamy stuff that shot out of a can, and a razor that was encased in plastic, the heads were disposable.
During one of our family trips to New York City, I found a shop called "THE ART OF SHAVING" and decided to get back to my youth with a ritual like my dad's. I bought an expensive, sleek safety razor. I order "100" blade packs from Amazon that have a variety of blades from all over the world (which I used to keep a spreadsheet on the performance of each - but gave that up after a while). I don't have a shaving mug, but I do have a beautiful badger hair brush that works my fancy soap into a luxurious lather. And yes - when I nick myself - I tear off a piece of toilet paper and stick it on until it dries and falls off.
You are probably thinking that this is a story about shaving, but you'd be wrong. This is a story about another small way that I continue to keep my dad with me.
So what about you? Any rituals that you've carried on from your family of origin? Anything that you do that takes you right back to your childhood home? Even if it doesn't take you there every time, it's still a connection to days long gone.