Those Were the Days

Last week, my university held a commencement ceremony for graduating seniors. For days before and after the event, the neighborhood swelled with the students’ family and friends. You could see dads and moms strolling down the sidewalk, into and out of cafes and pastry shops, helping their baseball-capped kids move out of dorm rooms or off-campus housing for the last time.

Even if you were unaware of graduation, you could still tell what time of year it was by the mounds of broken Ikea furniture, mini refrigerators, and fans on the street. The businesses here love graduation, especially the restaurants and coffee houses, which follow the dictates of market economics and raise prices on average twenty-five percent or more.

Not so Ciro. Ciro (tʃiːro) is neither an economist nor restaurant owner. He is my barber. He is a young guy, an honest guy, a family guy from Montenegro. He would no more raise prices on students and their families than throw a milkshake at Mayor De Blasio (see Of Barbers and Bumblebees). Actually, we discussed that the other day. Although Ciro agreed with the sentiment, he rejected the idea in the end. I, however, named several flavors of milkshake (e.g., strawberry) that I would have no problem hurling at hizzoner, whose real name is Warren Wilhelm, Jr. Governor Cuomo would get two milkshakes. The bartender one Congressional district over, four. Politics is an exponential thing.

Ciro is such a likable guy that many seniors came back after graduation to bid him farewell, introduce their parents to him, and take group photos. One woman reportedly said, “So, you’re the barber who makes my son look so handsome! He had a mat of hair before, but when he comes home now, he looks positively human. Thank you!” This came via Ciro. I don’t doubt it, but it was difficult to get the details straight through his accent. He added that the mother kissed him. That’s not the kind of thing you make up about somebody’s mother.

I know some of these students. The day I got my last haircut, I recognized a student from my business ethics class in the chair next to me. He is a bright kid whose mother is a CPA. When the student left, I asked Ciro why he thought so many kids brought their families back to meet him, take pictures, and wax nostalgic about the barbershop. He smiled, flattered, but wasn’t sure.

You could say that such behavior is a natural expression of students moving on, maturing, passing from one social status to another. That sounds right, but what strikes me is the particular way in which this expression happens. The experience of getting your hair cut by Ciro has become a marker of this transition. Maybe it isn’t as important as walking across the stage and being handed your diploma by the dean or reverend president, but it is important enough to drag your parents into the shop and take pictures. The former ritual is expected, the latter sought after.

These smaller rituals comprise the atoms of human existence. They combine with each other, helping us not only make sense of life but leave our mark on the world. We derive our identities from them and rely on them for assurance when confronted with the stupidities of the modern world, including–dare I say it?–politics. One day students can tell their spouses or children, “Here I was at this time and place, getting my haircut from Ciro. And I did it for four years!”

I see this kind of thing all the time. People who grew up in the neighborhood return with their children and grandchildren in tow, pointing out this restaurant, that bakery, the hardware store that is no longer there but that used to be a fixture way back when.

Memorial Day, which we commemorate tomorrow, is a national day of remembrance and mourning on a grand scale. We ought to be mindful as well of the lost rituals on a small scale, the missed opportunities and loves that never materialized. The lives that were never lived. The wounds that never healed. The haircuts that were never given.

Image credits: feature by dwi rina on Unsplash; “Barber” by Renee Olmsted from Pixabay; haircut by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance. Dedicated to Vincent Cannizzaro for Memorial Day.


  1. As they say the early bird catches the worm… But…Where is the subsequent follow up. I even have John Reiman in my presents to advertise his accessories to posts on fense construction. Both Sporting Flatops! Now with all of that, Your choice…Nero? or Flatop?

  2. Thank you for this beautiful, yet poignant post. Yes, it is those places with resonance, that take up residence in our hearts. True that we visit these special places sometimes physically, others by heart, at certain points in our lives, whether seeking refuge, encouragement…?

    These days, I search the records for a dear piano coach of my childhood and adolescence who left a message, disappeared, then died without a trace in 1978. Continued:

    1. Next on my desired visitation path; Deerfield, Illinois, a small town outside of Chicago. Actually, the tiny Deerfield Library where I spent hours upon hours of my childhood in this refuge of books and friendly librarian.

      Finally, my grandparents’ farm near Craryville, New York, a place so expansive that I couldn’t be found among the brooks, forests, blueberry bushes, and hiding places for reading, and the hidden corners of the lake, when there were no swimmers.

      Probably, there are more to visit, but I am content with these three.

      1. Excellent. Don’t let too much time go by before you hit the road. When you get to New York, let me know. I love blueberries. If you come down to the city, I’ll introduce you to my barber…

  3. How vesatile is Ciro Rob, You mentioned in this article what a Great PR man he is. But usually extteme window dressing in my book is a cover up for lack of quality product.
    Can he do a ducktail? A Flat Top, An Afro, A perm, an English Bob? Howabout a Mohawk and finally can he do a Nero with associated wreath?
    The problem in our culture is that its all about Window Dressing and Public Relations… No Beef! In recognition of The Holiday, Lets Focus and meditate on the poignant hairstyle of our former second president John Adsms!

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