Friday, January 22, 2010


On my fridge hangs a card one of my best friends posted to congratulate me on my pregnancy. The image is of a little boy and a baby robin discovering each other at a windowsill and, in the shot, the child's hair is all askew and stands up on end, (as does the newborn robin's).  She bought the card because I told her of the robin nesting above my side door and the curious parallel between us and our eggs. The photograph is a favourite of mine. My son has made this exact expression quite a number of times and the child in the photograph is very like him, facially. I try to picture him with a full head of hair. It's growing in a bit thicker now. Looks like it will be curly like his mommy's.

His perfect head has one distinct feature, though. And that's a cowlick, right smack dab in the centre atop his brow. One of his first books, also a gift prior to his birth, has a picture of a little baby with a cowlick in the very spot where his resides, though it's on a mirrored trajectory.

The term cowlick is noted as having been used in England (and Italy) as early as the late 1500s. It rears its curly tuft in an English translation by Richard Haydocke of Italian writer G.P. Lomazzo's painting tract which states, "The lockes or plain feakes of haire called cow-lickes, are made turning upwards." Now there's a phrase I hanker to use in everday conversation: feakes of haire. Wish I'd coined that.

Pardon me, waiter, but there's a feake of haire in my soup du jour.

The dictionary defines cowlick as a lock of hair that turns in a different direction than the rest of the hair on the head. Cows, like many mothers in the animal world, clean their young by licking them, fashioning a swirl or upright tuft in the hide. Further, there is an ancient Norse myth concerning Auðumbla, a primeval cow, who licks some salty ice blocks and, as her tongue works away, a man's head of hair appears first and slowly, eventually, the rest of him. The man is Búri, ancestor to the Norse gods. The myth is recorded by Snorri Sturluson in the 13th century. I mention Snorri purely because his name rocks and had I known of it before I gave birth, my son might be carrying a different moniker altogether. Lucky for Sonshine, I was oblivious. By some strange twist of fate (or hair, rather), my baby boy's name is related to Nordic history, however. Neato.

Sonshine has had his cowlick since birth. At the back of his head, his hair swirls in one direction. Something you'll find on most babies. But at the front of his head, he has this distinct lock of hair which curls in the opposite direction. Everyone remarks on it. I adore it for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that we live rurally and his first year of his life will be spent in this 19th century farmhouse, so a cowlick, in particular, seems fitting somehow.

From the day he arrived, I have traced my finger around this soft swirl while singing him to sleep. It acts as a bullseye for endless targeted kisses. His third name relates to the stars and the wishes made upon them during a meteor shower the month of my IVF surgery. It is, thus, no small coincidence that this honey-coloured, copper-tinted tuft of hair reminds me of the stellar swirls depicted in Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night.

Granted, we are all made of stardust, but the stuff seems to cling still to this child of mine. He carries the downy whorl of the cosmos imprinted on his forehead.

I love the idea that this lock of hair travels in a direction so distinctly different from the rest of his head and wonder if it whispers of an independent spirit. Frost comes to mind; will he take the road less traveled by? I like to think his road will be a unique path, that somehow he will forge ahead, brandishing a machete to hack a new route for himself and not follow blindly the direction of the rest of the planet. Does this whirl denote perhaps some artistic streak? I like to imagine it is some hairy harbinger of a singular mind and an extraordinary heart. Certainly a curious mind with that upside down, backwards question mark hovering over his brow. Clearly not your everyday, average soul, but one with remarkable individuality: if his cowlick isn't enough to convince on its own, his eyes certainly belie the fact.

Whatever path he travels, I trust he will be guided by the stars, inspired by the wonder of the universe, confident in the exploration of all that lies ahead of him.  For now, my index finger orbits my son's lock and I kiss it with all the love I can muster in the universe.

I ain't gonna lick it, though.

Still trying to lose the prego weight and the analogy would be...udderly unwelcome. Ahem.

Music: Vincent Van Gogh, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers


Brian Miller said...

lol. the pics are wonderful. such a beautiful little one. cow licks...i got one, wrestle with it daily. smiles. cling tightly to your little stardust!

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Cabo said...

That was a warming read. Cow licks... can't live with them, don't really have a choice.

Your closing remarks had me laughing loudly. :)

the b in subtle said...

thanks Brian - i'm sure it gives character which you have in spades.

Ti - thanks - though i'm not sure you KNOW how i couldn't be compared to a bovine creature. HA. i'm very moooooved that you think so.

Thanks Michael - i speak cow now - the farmer up the road (Ron) rents the field from the farmer up back of me and his cows come up to my fence from april/may until around november. so i speak cow now. and i name them all. you'r enot supposed to name beef cattle, but...oh well. they always give me glares when i barbecue and i always blush, shamefaced. ;)

Mimi said...
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the b in subtle said...

Yeah, I'd already linked Don McLean's song on the post I wrote about his birth so I try to link new music (or at least music I haven't linked before) with each post... glad you liked it, Mimi. he IS handsome, isn't he? I won't argue with you ;)