THE GIFT OF THE MAGGIE
c1998 Airweaver

Even after ten years, Lorenzo remains as much a mystery to us as ever. We had another visit from him just yesterday. His last, he informs us, since he plans to soon retire. "But not to worry," he reassures us, he will be leaving a lifetime supply of HairGlo, "with his compliments, should we wish to continue." Iím not sure at this point if we do, but thatís really up to Maggie. Sheís the one who has to cope with that incredible hair. All I can say is that Lorenzo, whoever he may be, has certainly made life much more interesting.

Let me state at the outset that I didnít marry Maggie because of her hair. Far from it. I married her for her quick Irish wit and a thousand other factors having nothing to do with hair. In fact, hair was the farthest thing from my mind back then. She wore it short, permed and shingled like just about everyone else I knew, so her hair made little impact on me at the time. Certainly it was nothing out of the ordinary, although I couldnít help noticing that it was the most beautiful shade of red, gleaming almost as brightly as the copper saucepans that were once the pride of my motherís spotless kitchen. And, no, that color didnít come from a bottle either; Maggie OíRorke was as Irish as a shamrock.

So our life together began with Maggie knowing nothing about my one secret passion. I must confess. I have this thing about women with long hair. For as far back as I can remember, I have daydreamed about hair like that, the longer the better. Seductive hair you could let down and expose in all its silken glory. Tresses you could become buried in, lost within a rich tapestry of soft, fragrant tangles. Hair you could brush until it was smooth as polished glass and gleamed with a radiant inner fire. Not that I had ever had any experiences along those lines, mind. Unfortunately, no one fitting that description had ever come my way, and my desire remained but an unfulfilled fantasy. And then I met Maggie....

But letís face it. It was only a matter of time before my hidden passion was discovered and drew comment. It happened one day during a trip to the local mall when Maggie caught my eye wondering. And who could blame me? There had been this blond in front of us, I remember, with long, beautifully-groomed hair that swayed back and forth to well past her butt as she walked down the mall in front of us. It was breathtaking. Whatís a guy to do? Iím only human.

"I saw you staring at that blond just now," Maggie said matter-of-factly. "Sheís got very pretty hair. I bet thatís why you were giving her the eye." I had to confess it was.

"Iíve noticed you doing that before," Maggie remarked calmly. "Do you think I have pretty hair?" Maggie was looking at me curiously, giving me the once-over.

My eyes focused on her nondescript perm. "Youíd better believe it!" I replied. "Iíve never seen a more beautiful shade of red in my life." I left it at that. I might have this thing about long hair, but I wasnít about to let it spoil our wonderful relationship.

"Hmmm," Maggie said slowly. "Well, thatís just the problem, you know. You have no idea what it was like growing up having red hair. You continually got called Ďcarrot-topí at school. And everyone always thinks youíre about to lose your temper, as if redheads were temperamental or something. You better believe itís a drag. I often thought of dying it all black, but ever dared because of my mother. You know how conservative she is. Iíd never have heard the end of it." Maggie said nothing further on the subject, and I could only feel fortunate that she hadnít made a big deal of my roving eye, or perhaps suspect me of something worse like infidelity.

But the matter didnít end there. The first time I suspected something might be happening, Maggie was sitting across from me at the breakfast table one Sunday morning a month or so later. The sun was shining directly on her vivid red hair turning it to fire. It looked fantastic shimmering in the sunlight like that and somehow seemed a bit fuller and more radiant than usual. The light was bringing out all those glorious highlights, and for the first time I realized what a fantastic color it really was. I started thinking it was a pity she didnít let it grow a bit longer, or perhaps took some of the curl out of it and allow it to develop more of a sheen. I complimented her on how pretty she looked that morning, especially her hair.

She seemed rather pleased, and I thought I detected a twinkle in her eye. "Remember that blond with all the hair we saw at the mall last month?" she asked. "Well, Iíve been thinking. Iíve got a surprise for you. I realize you like long hair and figure if youíre going to get it itíd better be from me. I donít want to be losing you to some scheming Repunzel or something, so Iíve decided to grow mine out just for you. Letís see what happens, okay?. Youíve been awful good to me, Tom, so Iíd like to do something in return. Remember that O. Henry story? The one where the bride cuts off all her pretty hair to buy her husband a present at Christmas time? Well, think of it as something like that, only the other way around. Consider it ĎThe Gift of the Maggie.í"

See? Didnít I tell you Maggie was somebody special? Here she hadnít said a word, and sheís been letting her hair grow for an entire month just for me -- she knew perfectly well I wouldnít leave her over a thing as superficial as hair. I looked again at that flaming cap of red curls glowing in the morning sun and felt a surge of excitement pass through me. All day I kept sneaking glances at Maggie trying to imagine how she would look if she had really long hair. I tried to picture her with her flaming red hair flowing to her waist, or, if I was lucky, perhaps even longer. The very thought drove me wild with anticipation.

It was possible, of course, that Maggie would soon tire of her rash decision, so over the next six months or so I tried to be as supportive as possible without making a big deal of it. I got her the best hair brush I could find and occasionally commented on how great she was looking, but basically our live settled into its usual comfortable routine. We were good soul mates.

Maggieís hair filled out and lost its artificial curl, but Iím sorry to report that its growth rate was a bit disappointing and far slower that I had hoped for. Iíd read somewhere that hair normally grows somewhere up to six inches a year, and tried to calculate how much time it would take that bright aurora of soft, red hair to reach her shoulders, her shoulder blades, all the way down to its full potential. But Maggieís hair didnít behave that way. Some weeks it didnít seem to grow at all. Still, you have to work with what youíre given, and Maggie was faithful to her promise. She stayed away from the scissors and by the following year had managed to achieve hair that just brushed her shoulders. It was all one length now, and because it was naturally straight, it took on an added luster. That color was absolutely amazing. To see her unconsciously push a sleek strand back behind an ear, or to watch a tangling red tendril fall seductively forward across one of her cheeks was a real turn-on. I kept telling myself to be patient, that at least it was getting longer, slowly but surely.

Then came the day Maggie made her terrible announcement. I had come home late from work to find her sitting in front of the mirror brushing out her hair. It fell loose and soft to her shoulders, filling the room with that soft, lovely glow I had grown to love. I thought it looked lovelier than ever. The way the light played off those silky red strands, the way the brush made it ripple. Suddenly she threw down her brush and said, "Letís face it, Iím just not the long-hair type. You can see itís not growing and Iím sick and tired of trying anymore. I was doing this for you, you know. Well, Iíve given it my best shot, but this is it! Iím getting it whacked off next week."

Now, itís true that Maggieís hair was a bit of a disappointment in the growth department, but it had become smooth as satin and that color spilling down across her face had a way of making my breath come short. How could she be thinking of cutting it, just when it had become so special? I muttered something uncommittal, but left for work the following morning in a high state of anxiety. Maybe this hair business was not so superficial after all.

I had the next day off, I remember, and we spent a pleasant time puttering around doing nothing in particular. In the middle of the afternoon the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find someone on the step who could only have been a traveling salesman. His sample case was a dead giveaway. I was just about to slam the door in his face, when he spotted Maggie standing behind me.

"What attractive hair you have, madam! I believe I have something here that can turn it into something truly special."

Well, if this salesman could do anything to discourage Maggie from cutting her hair and going back to that boring old perm, I was more than prepared to listen. I opened the door wide and let him in. He said his name was Lorenzo.

"Oh, this," Maggie replied, putting both hands up and touching her hair. "Forget it. Iím going in for a makeover first thing next week."

"Well, of course, thatís entirely up to you," our visitor replied, "and I have things here that would fill that bill quite nicely, but before you decide on a new look why donít you give this a try." He reached into his case and pulled out a bottle of something he called 'HairGlo.'

"Now, Iím not saying you wouldnít look good with a new hairdo, and Iím not saying it wouldnít suit you just fine, but I bet you think your hair could use a bit more body. All my customers swear by this."

I could see Maggie sort of hesitating and for the first time in my life was glad to see the arrival of a traveling salesman on our doorstep.

Maggie pulled her bright red hair back behind her ears. "You think Iím going to get more body out of this? Just look at it. Lank it is. Iíve tried all kinds of stuff on it and seen no improvement. Iíve been trying to grow my hair, but itís a no-go. Iím just not the right person for long hair. Got anything in your case for stylish, short hair?"

I found myself thinking, "Well, thatís that. It was nice while it lasted." Irish girls are great, but they can be awfully stubborn. One thing I hadnít counted on, though. was the powers of persuasion of this distributor of 'HairGlo.'

"I can well imagine you have tried all kinds of things on that lovely head of yours, madam. Any woman with such beautiful hair would. But this product is like nothing else in the world. It is guaranteed to increase its volume and make it grow faster than you would believe possible. If you donít see results in a week, I will pay for your makeover myself. Canít say fairer than that."

"OK, youíve got a deal, mister. Itís either full hair or short hair. This stuff had better be good, or itís going to cost you a lot of money. Makeovers donít come cheap."

So, we wound up buying a bottle of 'HairGlo' from this guy who said his name was Lorenzo, and Maggie shampooed with it that very night. I think she thought it was all nonsense and wanted to get all this foolishness over hair out of the way as soon as possible. The one encouraging sign was when she called out to me from the bathroom, "Hey, this stuff smells kind of good."

It was only later that I had a chance to read the small print on the bottle: "Guaranteed to make normal hair grow at the rate of one-half inch per day with regular application."

Could such a thing be possible? Of course not! It had taken Maggie the better part of two years to get hair down to her shoulders. And it had been a slow process at that. It would take a lifetime for her to get hair down to her waist the way I really wanted it, assuming such a thing was even possible. I started making a few quick calculations. If this stuff was for real, she could have waist-long hair by Christmas! Letís see... half an inch a day. Letís make that three inches a week. That comes to a foot a month! It was all hype, of course, but I began daydreaming again, crossing my fingers, hoping this HairGlo stuff at least had something going for it and that Maggie would come to like it. Waist-length hair by Christmas, hair to her knees by next summer. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine her with shimmering red hair falling clear to her knees. Maybe sheíd even like that idea too. After all, it had been her idea in the first place to let it grow.

I overslept and woke to find Maggie at her dressing table brushing out that beautiful red hair I had come to love. How much longer would I be able to enjoy the sight.?

"Well, what do you think?" she asked. "Is it my imagination, or does my hair look a bit thicker? I think there must be something in what that guy said yesterday. I think itís kind of pretty.

It was true. Her hair did look a bit fuller and that rich red hue seemed more vibrant than ever. "I think your hair has never looked lovelier," I honestly replied.

"Well," said Maggie, "I guess maybe I will give this stuff a chance and see what happens. Nothing to lose. I started growing my hair mainly for you, you know, but I have to confess I have always been curious to know how I would look if I had long hair. Well, how it looks is bad, but right now Iím even more curious to find out if this stuff is any good."

The small print on the HairGlo label turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration, as I knew it would. Nobodyís hair could be expected to grow a half-inch a day. On the other hand, perhaps that was just because Maggie was such a difficult subject. In any event, the product did seem to be working. No doubt about that. Maggieís hair never looked healthier, and I could tell she was becoming pleased with the results. I started catching her taking peeks at herself in the mirror, turning her head this way and that. Within a month Maggieís red mane (for thatís what it really now was becoming) extended halfway to her shoulder blades, which no amount of coaxing had previously be able to accomplish. Maggie seemed to be as excited by the fact as I was. She even mentioned one day that she hoped Lorenzo would be coming around soon again because she was running out of HairGlo.

As if by magic, Lorenzo appeared the following day. "Turn around, turn around, my dear. letís have a look at you," Lorenzo said when Maggie answered the door. Maggie had her hair loose and it was falling in a shimmering cascade clear to her bra-line. "Yes, I can see wonderful things happening. Never fails with HairGlo. Beautiful hair, but only God can give you that coloring. Canít take all the credit, can I? But always glad to be of service." Another bottle of the remarkable concoction changed hands. Expensive, but I was not about to quibble.

Part 2

By the third time Lorenzo showed up, we were both beginning to wonder about him. Was he for real? There was something very mysterious about him and the way he seemed to suddenly materialize each time Maggieís supply of HairGlo was running low. It was rather uncanny. Then there was the business with Mrs. Bradleyís daughter, Nancy. Mrs. Bradley lived next door and had begun to make comments about Maggieís hair. She didnít believe it was real. "Clear down her back all of a sudden," I once overheard her confide to the clerk at our neighborhood deli. "Nobodyís hair grows that fast. Obviously sheís taken to wearing a wig for some reason. Use to keep it so neat and tidy too. Just hope she hasnít taken ill, poor child." Mrs. B. leaned across the counter and whispered in the clerk's ear, "That can make all your hair fall out, you know."

Her daughter, a pretty young thing, stopped around one day asking for Maggie. It seems Nancy was thinking of growing out her hair and wanted to know what Maggieís secret was. "I couldnít help noticing, Mrs. Schaeffer, how great your hair has been looking lately. And itís growing so fast! Iím sick and tired of this boring old hair and want to get it real long. Can you help?" We told Lorenzo about Nancy, but he only shook his head. "Wrong type. HairGlo wouldnít do her a thing." That seemed rather odd. Nancy had vibrant blue-black hair and wore it in a sleek pageboy. She would have looked stunning with long hair. Why couldnít HairGlo do for Nancy what it had been doing for Maggie?

I began to inquire further. Lorenzo didnít appear to have any other customers in our area. No one knew about him. So how come he happened to show up at our house and no one elseís? I once asked him about this. All I could get him to say was that he 'dealt with a very select clientele.' I tried tracing the mysterious HairGlo back to its origins. According to the label on the bottle, it was manufactured by a small firm in Chicago, but no company of that name seemed to exist. Lorenzo was equally evasive on this point. "We all have our trade sources to protect," was as much as I got out of him.

So Lorenzo continued to appear regularly, as much an enigma as ever, and Maggie remained a faithful consumer of his elusive product. She began slipping small quantities of HairGlo across the fence to an appreciative Nancy, even though I wasnít sure this was such a good idea. Our young neighbor apparently started saving it up to use over summer vacation, and such turned out to be the case. I will never forget my first sight of Nancy several weeks later after the Bradleys returned from their holiday. I had a hard time recognizing her with all that hair, as sleek and glossy as ever, but now hanging in two plump pigtails far down her back, black as pitch. Mrs. Bradley seemed none too pleased with her daughterís transformation, but Nancy was ecstatic. "I can hardly wait to get where I can sit on it," she exclaimed when she came over to show off her newly acquired braids.

It took Maggie two full years to get hair down to her waist, something Nancy was able to achieve in a matter of weeks. The wait seemed an eternity to me, but thinking back I enjoying every moment watching its downward progress, and there was that wonderful onward-going sense of anticipation. I also learned a valuable lesson. "Typically, hair can grow no more than six inches a year," Lorenzo reminded me. "Why, without HairGlo no one would even consider acquiring 20 inches of hair in less than four years, let alone two. Long hair represents the commitment of time. Think about it. Thatís why you see so few people with long hair these days. Theyíre simply not willing to take the time it requires. Instant gratification, thatís what people are into. Long hair takes patience. HairGlo can help, but in the end we must allow nature to take her course. And donít think that by simply using more of the product you can speed up the process. It wonít do a thing. You will just be wasting your money."

Lorenzo seemed in a loquacious mood that day. I brought up Nancy and mentioned how fast her hair had grown compared to Maggieís, and received at least a partial answer to one of our questions about Lorenzo. Why, I asked him, had he told us HairGlo wouldnít do Nancy any good when he could see perfectly well that it had made her hair grow fantastically fast, to her utmost satisfaction? "Well," he replied, "It worked out well in this instance, but Maggie should have left well enough alone. From what you tell me, Nancy is young and endowed with extremely healthy hair. Young people donít always know what they want, and thereís always the chance that HairGlo might work too well. HairGlo is perfectly safe, true, but it produces different reactions. What if Nancy decided she didnít like long hair once she had it? She could stop using the product and get her hair cut, of course, but thereís always a slight chance of trauma. Young people are so self-conscious about their appearance. Notice how she only started using it when she was away from her peers on vacation. I always try to err on the side of caution. Besides," he concluded, "HairGlo is hard to come by. I only supply it where I know it will do the most good."

Well, it certainly was going good in Maggieís case. The results were spectacular. Now I not only had my Maggie, but a Maggie with wonderful long hair I could enjoy. My dream had come true.

But that is certainly not the end of this story. A few days after my talk with Lorenzo about Nancy I was helping Maggie brush out her crowning glory, which fell by this time in a rippling symphony of red clear to her waist-- her hair was now long and full enough that she welcomed a little assistance with it. Suddenly she turned to me, "Remember how I once told you that I was going to grow out my hair so I wouldnít loose you to another woman? Well, Iím so glad I did. You were right, Tom, my hair looks much better this way. But I certainly wouldnít have if that guy Lorenzo hadnít shown up just when he did. I was that close to cutting it. Admit it: HairGlo has made all the difference."

I wasnít so sure about that last part. Maggieís hair was starting to look pretty nice even in the weeks before Lorenzo appeared, but Iím glad he did. Then Maggie said something that gave me even more of a thrill. "I wonder how long my hair would get if we kept up doing what we doing now. Think it would be worth a try? I mean, what if I went really, really long? Took the big plunge. Think I could manage?"

"Well, Iím certainly here to help. You know nothing gives me more pleasure than playing with your hair. I couldnít do much of that when we first got married, you know."

So Maggie decided to keep using HairGlo and 'go really, really long,' as she put it. Maggie took the challenge seriously and began to take as much pride in her beautiful hair as I did (her 'Irish inheritance,' she calls it). Week by week, month by month, that astonishing column of thick red hair grew longer and longer to the point where it came past her knees. Now it was soliciting comments from people wherever we went. "Look at that woman over there with all that gorgeous red hair," they would say. "Bet she can sit on it!"

We once made a simple discovery. Maggie hadn't cut her hair by so much as an inch from that moment four years before when she promised to grow it out for my sake. With her hair now past her knees (yes, people were right: she could sit on it easily), we decided to trim the ends just a bit to even them up. No sooner had we done so, than her hair seemed starting growing faster than ever. It may only have been our imagination, but in seemingly no time at all she had hair brushing against her calves. "Well," I said one day, "I guess you can now say youíve Ďgone really, really long.í" Maggie spread out all her gorgeous red hair for me to admire. "Weíre getting there," she smiled. I guess maybe I didnít really realize what 'really, really long' meant. I began to find out after her hair hit the floor.

Today Maggieís hair continues to grow. Neither of us knows exactly how this will turn out, but weíre both anxious to see. I wish I could tell you how you could obtain HairGlo yourself, and guess you can only hope that Lorenzo knocks on your door one day. Maggie has become something of a celebrity because of her hair. She never wears it down anymore (thereís simply too much of it to allow that), but she has learned a hundred wonderful ways to arrange it. I love helping her wash and brush her hair. This can take considerable time, but Lorenzo has taught me the gift of patience and we have developed a number of special time-saving procedures. The most perfect time is still at night before we go to bed. I draw out the pins, or untie the ribbons, or release whatever she has chosen to do with her hair that day, and let down that great flowing river of flame-red hair, and delight in the heavenly scent of HairGlo. Then I gently brush it until it glows like polished mahogany, and we fall into bed wrapped in a soft cocoon of seemingly endless hair.

It has now been ten years since Lorenzo first appeared to save Maggieís hair from who knows what disaster. The last time he stopped by to announce his retirement and leave us a lifetime supply of his famous HairGlo, he wanted to check up on Maggieís progress with what she still refers to as 'growing out her hair.' Maggie deftly removed a few pins from the towering mound of flaming red hair piled on her head and began carefully unwinding it foot by foot. Down her sides it poured like lava, to her waist, to her knees, and down onto the floor. On and on it spilled, spreading in rippling waves across the carpet. Maggie moved forward, her hair flowing behind her like a heavenly sunset, all ten feet of it. "Most satisfactory," Lorenzo announced. "Keep up the good work, and weíll have you in the record books yet. I only wish more of my clients were as conscientious as you."

"Well, I have Tom here to help and remind me. Iíve never seen anyone so turned on by the idea of long hair." Maggie might think I was the one who got her started down this path, but I knew she has become as devoted to her exceptional tresses as I ever was. I knew there was nothing now that would make Maggie part with her 'Irish inheritance.' Itís a good thing I like long hair.

After he had gone, leaving behind a considerable quantity of the precious HairGlo, something suddenly struck me. "You know, that Lorenzo turned out to be one wise salesman. You might almost say he was a magus, you know, one of the Magi."

Maggie stopped gathering up her flowing hair. "Oh I know what youíre thinking," she chuckled, "ĎThe Gift of the Maggie.í What a terrible pun that was!"

"But what a lovely present."

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