“Why did you move?”
It’s a question that yields a variety of answers. Some happy. Some sad.
And a few that are simply tragic.
“I couldn’t live surrounded by all that sadness anymore,” she said.
“She” is a Cape Cod transplant and works now as she did then as a hairdresser. And like many good beauty specialists she became very close to many of her clients.
“You’re touching them all the time and spending time with them,” she told me by way of explaining the intimacy she shared with these women. This kind of closeness is not uncommon. Barbra Streisand famously fell in love and then lived with her hairdresser, Jon Peters. The actor Patrick Dempsey married his. So, it is easy to imagine how close two people can become when they share even one part of their lives with each other every month year after year.
“We would talk a lot,” she said about her clients and then added, “I think I knew more about them than their husbands did.”
But one woman was very special to her.
“They were in love,” she said of this client and her husband. And if that were not lucky enough she added. “She came in one day to say that her husband had just received a 25 million dollar bonus.”
“How fabulous” I said. It did sound like a fairytale.
“No,” she stood there slightly shaking her head. A movement that communicated that this magical happening could never make up for what happened later.
“He worked for Cantor-Fitzgerald,” she said. “Two years later he was gone.”
That was September 11th 2001 of course. Two thirds of the company’s workforce, 658 people, perished when the twin towers at the world trade center were attacked.
She had been living in Greenwich Connecticut during that time. The affluent community is a bucolic sanctuary for those who commute into New York City everyday, so there was much sorrow all around her in those weeks and months that followed the terrorist attacks.
“Things were very quiet for a while” she said, but then, “They all started coming back.” Meaning the widows of Greenwich who in December, 3 months after losing their husbands, started returning to their hair salon. Including the woman she had become so fond of.
“She looked so frail. Dark circles were under her eyes,” she said.
“I just don’t don’t know how to go on,” the young widow confessed.
It was all too much.
A general pall hung over the whole community. It was too painful to watch and too deep to fix. So my hairdresser soon left Greenwich to begin a new life in Massachusetts.
On the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks Greenwich Magazine’s, Stephen Sawicki wrote about how far reaching that sadness actually extended.
“Sometimes we forget just how many people were involved,” says Donna A. Gaffney, a New Jersey-based grief counselor and advisor to Families of September 11, a support and advocacy group. “We all know the numbers, that nearly 3,000 people died. But if you look at how many people were left grieving for those 3,000, we could be talking another 10,000 to 15,000 people. And that doesn’t count friends and colleagues.”
My hairdresser had been one of those friends.
There are few tragedies that provide the motivation to move like this one did. But pain comes in all shapes and sizes.
Divorce forces a couple to pull up stakes and leave a home which once made them happy. To a lesser degree the same is true for folks whose economics change and who then need to downsize. Or for those who have to relocate from one city to another in order to find work. Even kids who leave home after college feel a little shaky at the prospect of beginning a new life.
You can only hope that they all find their way and that it all works out.
Like it did for my hairdresser. She still seems melancholy about her move to Cape Cod, but it did ultimately provide her with emotional refuge and a fresh start. With unimagined benefits.
“If I hadn’t moved, I would never have met my husband.”
I think that qualifies as a happy ending.