From Cleopatra to Shirley Temple


by cheri block sabraw

The Epic of Gilgamesh offers the modern reader a vivid slide show.

The first pictures of life in ancient Mesopotamia, replete with powerful gods and goddesses, set the scene for us viewers. As I wrote, we meet a young and handsome king, who because of his immaturity and vanity, has developed some bad habits. We see him abusing his subjects by power and by lust. It is not surprising that he is unsettled.

His desire for fame we can see in the walls around the ziggurat of Uruk.

Into the next picture comes Enkidu, not exactly a fresh face, for he is 2/3 animal and 1/3 man. Enkidu is innocent and earnest and unschooled in the ways of early man. He brawls and then hugs. He takes the hits for his new friend, Gilgamesh; he interprets dreams like a biblical Joseph, and he reluctantly agrees to go with his new buddy to the Cedar Forest to kill the Guardian of the Forest, Humbaba, a monster with an ugly face and protective personality.

Enkidu doesn’t want to go on the trek but the two set out for the forest anyway, like Huckleberry Finn and the slave Jim on their journey to freedom, or the guide Virgil and his trekker Dante in their descent to Hell.

Whether we (or Enkidu) like it or not, we are on a life trip, so we ought to make the most of the experience.

The first pictures of life in ancient Fremontia, replete with dominant parents Joan and Hugh, set the scene for us viewers. As I wrote,we meet a young and curious child, who because of her independent nature and her need for attention, has developed some bad habits. We see her abusing her siblings by control and bribery. It is not surprising that she is trouble with a capital T.

Her desire for fame we can see in the numerous crayon self-portraits that decorate her bedroom walls.

Cheri doesn’t want to go on her trip, but she has no choice; the Gods have decreed this adventure Good.

At the airport, her father reminds her to enjoy her first flight and to be a good little girl while visiting her relatives. The stewardess fussed over her, pins airplane wings on her little pink sweater, and escorts her to a big leather seat in the front of the plane next to a nice lady who smells like Cheri’s other grandmother.

In Dallas, her grandparents meet Cheri at the gate, smothering her with kisses, candy, and Dr. Pepper.

Hi Doll Face, how ya’all doing? Did those folks on that airplane treat you like the royalty that you are, you little sweetie pie o apple of your grampa’s eyes? Ya’ all hungry? Helen, before we head over to Neiman’s, let’s take lil Cheri out for some Texas bar-beeeee- Q.

Is your tummy growlin?


Now, this is more like it, she thought. A pampered center of attention was she—a far cry from her pedestrian existence in Fremont.

It must be noted at this juncture that even in her early years, hairstyle mattered to Cheri, who fancied herself prim and precise with her straight bangs and pageboy cut. No braids or twists or curls for her. At time she was too young to know that Buster Brown, Cleopatra, and Lucy Van Pelt would become hirsute idols, people who valued straight hair and straight talk.


After lunch, during which Cheri noticed her grandfather occasionally wiping a small tear from his almond-shaped eyes, he announced a big surprise.

Doll, how would you like to choose any toy from Neiman Marcus? Does that sound fun?

Any toy? Any toy I want?

Yes, Doll. First, however, we are going to the beauty parlor down on Mockingbird Lane. I have a surprise for you and your mother.

Cheri had no idea what a beauty parlor was. When she needed a haircut, she went to the Glenmoor Barber with her brother Stevie. There, the barber Charlie Tate took a wet comb, pressed it down on the nape of her neck, and then snipped horizontally around the back, over to the sides, ending with her bangs—her signature statement. Right above her eyebrows, he carefully moved the scissors in a very straight line.

The Dallas beauty parlor stunk with a chemical Cheri had never smelled.

Her grandfather  had a secret conversation with Lola, the stylist. Helen admired her own reflection, bunched up her red tresses, and winked at Cheri who instinctively touched her own straight hair.

Something was up.

Down into a pink washbowl went that little head and along with it, her identity.

Scrubby-Dubby, Lola said, as her experienced hands massaged Cheri’s scalp, forming a sudsy doo of epic proportions.

We’re gonna turn that little California Tomboy into a Southern Belle, doll face, Lola cooed in a twang. It was then that Cheri noticed Lola’s hair, a mass of blond curls as big as Texas itself.

Three hours and three Dr. Peppers later, Jimmie and Helen arrived at the salon to meet the new Cheri.

From Cleopatra to Shirley Temple, the transformation was complete.

At Neiman Marcus, the trio of Texans walked down the carpeted stairway to the enormous toy department and headed for the stuffed animals.

Cheri would make the most of this shopping spree.

About Cheri

Writer, photograph, artist, mother, grandmother and wife.
This entry was posted in Life, People and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to From Cleopatra to Shirley Temple

  1. Brighid says:

    OMGosh the memories, my mother-in-law had my daughter’s long, long hair cut off into a bowl cut when she was starting school. It was heart breaking, and took me more than a little soul searching to forgive.

  2. A buddy of mine gave me a copy of Gilgamesh to read some years ago, and I never got around to reading it. You’ve prompted me to do so.

  3. Cheri says:

    Hi Reggie,
    Welcome to the blog.
    I look forward to hearing your take on the Epic.

    Well worth the time, especially when you consider that it was written in about 1800 BCE.

    Amazing relevance to our lives.

  4. andreaskluth says:

    I believe it was THE first book, wasn’t it?

    Love the way your setting up a parallel between the gilgamesh and your modern life. That’s what I tried to do in my book.

    “…After lunch, during which Cheri noticed her grandfather occasionally wiping a small tear from his almond-shaped eye…” Is this tear something for a subsequent post? It created suspense…

  5. Cheri says:

    Yes. First book.

    Waiting for your book.

    That tear is the same tear shed by many good men who give up their wives, and thus their children, and grandchildren for another woman.

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