A Later Mom Letting Her Hair Down – by Robin Gorman Newman

They had a multicultural fair at my son’s elementary school, and I volunteered to help out at the French table.  It was manned by a gal and her mother who was French.  I lived in Nice for a summer during my junior summer at Hofstra University, so I’ve always felt an affinity toward the French.  I was a French minor in school, and at one time was fairly fluent, though over the years of not regularly using the language, I’ve lost most of my facility.

My job at the fair was to glue a small cutout of a French flag into the makeshift passport books of each student who visited the France table…and to have them answer a question or two about the country.  It was a fun and memorable way for the kids to learn about the world.

The fair was simply amazing.  I had no idea what it would entail.  Many countries were represented…and each table was put together with volunteer moms, many of whom were from the country represented.  There was everything from lavish costumes, to books, to coins, to statues of worship to instruments to toys and more.

I spent the bulk of the school day at the fair, and when given the opportunity, I perused the many tables and chatted with other mom volunteers.  At the India table, there was an artist painting Mehndi designs on the hands of the kids using a thick brown Henna paste.  Some adults snuck in, myself included, when there was a lull with the student visitors.  I watched in awe as she created a lavish and detailed design that started at the tip of my right pointer finger, making its way up my hand to just above my wrist.  I was told it would dry in about 20 minutes and turn into a crust that would flake off, leaving the design underneath.  It would last about a week if I applied oil to help keep it moist. I had expected she would create a simple, more subtle design like a bird or butterfly, as she had done for the children.  But, for the adults, she was offering something all the more ornate. 

My newly designed hand caught me off guard in more ways than one (check out the photo).  I was surprised to see the reaction to my hand.  Most of the time, once I left the fair, I had forgotten about it, but it became a constant conversation opener.

At my physical therapy session, the therapist commented.  Another PT patient…a man…loved it and said it was sexy.

The supermarket checkout clerk was enthralled by it and said she wanted to get one.

Marc and I attended a Bar Mitzvah, and many at our table took note.

I dropped Seth off at Hebrew School, and the female rabbi readily proclaimed “Cool Henna!”

I felt like I stepped out of myself with this experience. Did the Henna suggest to those who don’t know me that I’m a certain type of person?  A free spirit?

I found myself for the first time grasping why people get tattoos (although that hurts).  There is something to be said for creating art on your body.   It’s a powerful mode of self expression for all the world to see. 

Most importantly, the Henna reminded me of the unexpected in life, and how most days I feel like a conservative t-shirt/stretch pant-wearing suburban work at home mom.  Yet, underneath,  there is a gal who back in my Junior High School days once dressed up as Raquel Welch (or so I endeavored) for a Halloween party. 

I’ve always felt artsy/creative/spunky at heart, though since becoming a mom, so much of my time/thought process has been invested in care taking, whether for my son, senior father or home.

As I glance at the fading graphic on my hand, it reminds me of the younger gal I used to be who felt free and capable of letting down her permed hair.  My hair might be shorter and less curly these days, and I have way more responsibility, but that girl still lives inside me, and if it took a Henna to remind me of that, then I have my son to thank for the opportunity to volunteer at his school’s fair.  I’m wondering what’s next up when the Henna wears off.




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  1. One Response to “A Later Mom Letting Her Hair Down – by Robin Gorman Newman”

  2. I also had my hand drawn with henna before my brother-in-law’s wedding. My sister-in-law is from India and it is a tradition for all of the female relatives to have their hand decorated before the wedding. It was like a female party. Very cool!

    I also volunteer each year at International Week. And we went to your son’s school for the International performance! It was terrific!!

    If I volunteer at International Week next year, maybe I’ll suggest that the PTO find someone who knows how to henna hands. It would be a fun demonstration to watch!

    By Cara Meyers on Mar 17, 2012