Fourth of July always meant something different with my family. Sure, it involved a cookout or party where everyone showed up, there were red, white and blue decorations and attire, but even though we all knew it was our nation’s birthday we were celebrating something more personal. The 4th of July was my sister Vicky’s birthday.
As many of you know, I come from a big family. I am one of 8 children. My mom proudly drove around with a “Mom of 8” license plate. “Yeah, Italian Catholic,” I would say, as if that explained it all. But that 8 meant 6 boys and only 2 girls– I had only one sister, and she was 13 years older than me. By the time I was in middle school, or “junior high” as it was called back then, my sister was out of the house, on her own and a sought after hairdresser in Des Moines. So what does one do with a sister who is a hairdresser during the early 80’s? Well, they get them to try and recreate any and every nu-wave hairstyle that was popular at the time.
In 8th grade Vicky gave me my first mullet. From what I remember, the actual cut did not have a name but no one else had it and I thought I was totally cool. Come high school, I always tried to up the ante and have some kind of hairstyle that no one else had. I remember the asymmetric craze took hold, a la Cyndi Lauper, and Vicky took my grown out mullet to the next level. I was so proud, having the one side of my head closely shorn with Vicky’s artistic touch, a bleached out strip right above my ear. My mom was horrified. Who knows what reprimand Vicky got after that style. It probably didn’t help that she had also triple pierced my left ear. The wrath of my mom led to my cut being “evened out.” I spent God knows how many days in tears over it.
But the times and styles progressed. It was perm time in late 80’s and the salons back then did perms every day, all day long. Not only did I rock the perm, but I got frosted as well, that plastic cap tightly tied to my head and my now longish hair yanked through those tiny holes and turned blonde. From there, the early 90’s saw me in a very short and dark bob, a la Basia. Vicky saw me through all of these phases. Sure, I would carelessly put store-bought color on my hair. But she would do what she could to fix me and always found the time to make me feel like I had the most cutting-edge style out there.
I always thought my sister would be there for me. We were the only 2 girls; we had to stick together. Yeah, we looked nothing alike– people sometimes mistook her for my mom, but we had that sister bond. Maybe we were never able to share a bedroom or steal each other clothes, but we always had that connection. I was so excited to share the news with her when I made the decision to go to beauty school. I was in Hawaii at the time, and how I wished then she had been closer because I knew she could teach me so much more! She was already transitioning to her next career though. Being a mother of 4 and doing hair for over 20 years, she was ready to try her hand at the real estate world. I knew she would do great. Vicky was like our dad, she knew no stranger. She had the most jovial, positive personality and if her success at being a hairstylist was any indicator, she would definitely make her mark in the real estate world.
But it was not meant to be. In 2003 my sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died a year later. Much like with my dad’s passing almost 6 years earlier, I still think about the parts of my life that they were not here for, things I was not able to share with them, advice I was not able to get from them, pictures they would not be in, and, in losing my sister, birthdays when I would not be able to call and wish her “Happy Birthday!”
Carmella is the owner and lead stylist/colorist at Luster Salon
My sister Vick and I, circa 1983