“Look at that red hair!”
That sentence, those five words, are my very first memory of my son. Well, that and a giant blue screen pressed up against my face and the sensation that on the other side of the screen a hyena was burrowing through my lower intestines.
A drunk hyena.
Who hated me.
Ah, the miracle of birth.
But back to my point. Those words were said by my doctor, the wielder of the C-section knife, the very first person to see my child in the flesh. And he said it for a very good reason. That hair was indeed just screaming to be looked at. Screaming as loudly as the little, angry, bunched-up person it was attached to.
From day one…hell, minute one, my child was a bright, flaming redhead. If a pumpkin spice latte mated with a standard red fire engine, the resulting offspring would be my son’s head.
We had a card-carrying member of the ginger team on our hands. And the sheer amount of it! He came out looking like a redheaded Albert Einstein after an all-night rave in a static factory.
Now, at the time, I was still too stunned that I had given birth to an actual human instead of a giant wad of the 200 cheeseburgers I had eaten over the past nine months to fully realize the implications of this. Because no matter how many ultrasound pictures you look at, it’s still hard to wrap your mind around the idea that there’s a baby inside you. Even as you are holding your living, breathing, squirming baby, there is still a lingering feeling of “Well, just where the hell did you come from?” as you look down at their face.
But as the shock and awe of his birth (and the effect of those miraculous pain pills that made me taste yellow and see underwear gnomes) wore off, I started noticing that his hair was a Big Deal. Everyone was commenting on it. All the doctors. All the nurses (even the ones who had been in the maternity ward since before Moses was born). Even the other mothers. And as he transformed from scrunchy old man newborn to full-fledged adorable babyhood, the reactions only got bigger.
Nothing can prepare you for having a natural redhead. Despite the huge market for parenting books, somebody has yet to write “What to Expect When Your Expected is Unexpectedly Redheaded” or “Ginger Preparedness: Dealing With Redheads in a Towheaded World.” It’s like having a celebrity baby, if the baby was also a unicorn-slash-fairy hybrid.
Walking down the street, people not only stop and exclaim “Look at that red hair!” on a regular basis, but will also rub his head for good luck, like he’s some kind of living, breathing Blarney Stone.
One stranger stopped me and gave me a 20-minute history lesson on how my son is descended from Vikings, the original redheads.
Another stranger, a grandfather of a ginger grandson, forced me to look at 43 cellphone pictures of said grandson and told me I better be careful with Riker since redheads are going extinct and as such, he is incredibly precious cargo. And then gave me a parting look that seemed to say “I don’t really trust you with this task at all.”
Two, not one, but two, strangers have told me on separate occasions that both the mother and the father have to have the recessive gene for red hair in order to produce a ginger offspring and since my husband and I both do possess these magical redheaded genes, we are obligated to have as many children as possible. To which I replied with hysterical laughter followed by maniacal sobbing.
There have also been others who have wanted a detailed genealogy of my family’s roots (both of the hair and historical varieties) and my husband’s family. To which I always joke, “well, my husband’s a quarter ginger on his father’s side,” to which they are not amused. Not to mention the people who look at my natural brunette hair with its fake honey highlights and then look down at my son and then back to me and then internally debate whether they should call the cops because some ginger family somewhere is obviously missing its baby.
And that’s not even counting the countless people who don’t directly address us but still gasp, poke their friend and whisper loudly “Look at that red hair!”
All this has given me a new appreciation for the trials and tribulations natural redheads have to deal with on a daily basis. Because while gingers may be rare and thus their unique hue considered a gift, it can also be a curse.
Which is why when strangers ask me if Riker has a temper to match his hair, I reply with “wouldn’t you if the world treated you as their own personal Blarney Stone?”