Copper House North

The Stance – A True Short Story

All in the Palms, a hair salon in Cumming, GA

There are a few places I immediately associate with acceptance and love: home, sharing a meal around a table with close friends or family, church, a quiet walk in nature. And, All in the Palms Salon Studio, a hair salon in Cumming, GA.

The owner, Jannell Palms, has been styling my curls since 2009. As long as she’s in business and I live nearby, I’m never letting her go. I’ve always said she’s the best kept “secret” around.

Each time I have an appointment with Jannell, I leave better than when I arrived. She excels in styling hair but also in listening to others, and offering words of encouragement and affirmation. In short, she loves well.

Her studio is an overflowing source of creative inspiration. I love scanning the interior to see what decorative changes she’s made since my last visit. I’ve drawn sketches, written ideas, and read countless books while being treated by Jannell.

In January, 2018, one particular appointment inspired me to write a story. At the time, it was just days after I heard the calling to write The Miracle Farm book. Not yet confident in my writing, I was asking questions like Do I even know how to write nonfiction? and Can I actually do this?

Well, the writing practice for that story helped answer those questions. Titled The Stance, you’ll find it below.

I hope you enjoy it.

An inspirational sign hanging inside All in the Palms, a hair salon in Cumming, GA.
A sign that hangs inside the salon.

The Stance

by Christina Steward

Jannell stood behind my swivel chair, with scissors in hand – hunched over, brow furrowed, feet cemented to the floor.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

She didn’t make a sound.

♦♦♦

     It had been six months since I visited All in the Palms Salon Studio, nestled in the heart of Cumming, GA. When I arrived that first week in January, I parked my car in the unpaved lot behind the light-yellow house, underneath a canopy of trees. Bundled in a down jacket, blue jeans and
snow boots, I crossed the raised, wooden boardwalk that lies parallel to the side of the house, listening to the hollow drum that reverberated with each step. I rounded the corner to the front – the county courthouse towers just a few blocks away.

“Honey, I’m home!” I joked, as I climbed the steps to the door and opened it wide. Warm air embraced me, providing relief from the frigid wind.

Jannell Palms, the salon owner, walked toward me with a large smile on her face. She donned a tunic dress with leggings and her long, coffee-colored hair was pulled into a neat bun on top of her head. She gave me a tight squeeze.

“How was your trip?” she asked.

As we chatted, we wandered over to the side room where she applies hair color. On the TV, there was a home renovation project underway, and soulful pop music sounded from stereo speakers. She
handed me a smock and I settled in, ready for a few precious moments of pampering.

Jannell not only has a refined ability to style hair, but also a strong design sense that lingers throughout the house. There’s an intriguing mix of old-meets-new: a wine barrel mounted by a wooden tabletop, painted in distressed, turquoise blue; a brick fireplace painted in charcoal
gray; a desk built from an open framework iron base and whitewashed wood pallets; a focal point wall with alternating stripes in teal, yellow, gray and white; a ceramic hand bell with a scalloped edge, that once belonged to her grandmother.

There are inspirational messages posted in the space. A hand lettered sign reads “Live well, laugh often, love much” and hangs above the nail-head trimmed furniture in the main seating area. Another says “This is a no judgement zone,” reminding her clients to be kind to others and to themselves. And perhaps a promise that she isn’t passing judgement, either.

“What are we going to do today?” she asked, surveying my thick, dark hair.

“Well, last year was about getting used to my curls again…and I’m starting to like
them.”

It was freeing to hear those words come from my mouth. For years I worked against the natural curls in my hair, a flat iron my constant companion.

“I’d like to wear my curls down, but I’m having trouble keeping these pieces out of my eyes.”

I grabbed the offending lengths of hair and pulled them over my face.

“Have you tried parting your hair on the other side?”

She tousled the top of my head until the locks laid perfectly still in the opposite direction, away from my face. I belly laughed and pitched forward in the chair. Such a simple solution and a little embarrassment that no, I hadn’t tried that before.

We agreed on how much hair to lose and what color to apply, though just like embracing my curls, I wondered when I’d finally accept my natural shade of salt and pepper. We talked as she painted
the grays away, catching up on life events since my last appointment.

There was a wedding – her oldest son.

“Everyone commented how much love you could see between the two of them, how much joy there was,” she said, with pride swelling in her voice. “The hair was beautiful, too.” She seemed grateful to contribute her talent that day, to the people most important to her.

Over the years I’ve learned how much Jannell loves her husband and children, and especially having her entire family of five underneath the same roof, something that doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Her kids are grown, getting married and attending college, and there’s a tenderness
in her voice when she talks about them. And maybe a hint of longing for the days gone by.

Conversation shifted to my life.

Somewhere in recent years, my husband and I had quit being intentional in our relationship. When red flags started waving, it seared my heart.

After many tears on my part, and serious talks on what we needed to change to improve our marriage, we decided to quit coasting. We went on coffee dates, movie dates, and took walks together. Simple things we had stopped making time for. And one of the most difficult years in
our marriage was flipped on its head – and became one of the best.

Jannell finished her color work, made sure I had water, and left the room to allow the color to process. I unzipped my handbag, pulled out my Kindle, and resumed reading a book on how to write nonfiction. An elderly woman opened the front door, and Jannell welcomed her with the same warmth I received when I arrived.

Time disappears inside the salon studio, where thirty minutes passes like five. When it was time for shampoo, we walked into an adjoining room where two sinks line the wall, a sheer white curtain dividing the space between them. Opposite the wall are various packages of hair formula, stored on shelves.

Wooooosh!

Water rushed into the bowl. She let it run for a few seconds to ensure the temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold, like Goldilocks and her bowls of porridge.

“Does that feel okay?”

I nodded as the pressure from the spray began its tedious work of rinsing the goo from my hair.

Pop!

Sweet citrus fragrance filled the air and suds lathered on my head. I closed my eyes for a rare moment during the day, letting my thoughts drift. Then, on the edge of sleep, Jannell wrapped my head in a soft, dry towel and clipped it in place.

We walked into a third room where there’s a white swivel chair dedicated to styling hair and a tall, free-standing mirror on wheels. I melted into the chair and she removed the towel, letting the curls
cascade down my back. She confirmed the amount of hair to cut and started her scissor work, pulling sections of hair above my head and cutting into the ends for texture.

Conversation began again as we discussed different gels and creams to control curly hair and how to apply them, all things that had eluded me for a long time.

“Have you tried braiding your hair?” she asked.

Letting my hair dry some and then braiding it in sections would result in interesting curl patterns, she said. I took a mental note, thankful for her wisdom.

Suddenly, something tickled the left corner of my mouth. A loose hair. I tried to wipe it away once, twice, but it didn’t budge. Then I tried to peel it away with my fingertips but there was grotesque resistance. Confusion gave way to understanding.

I opened my mouth and gave the hair a final yank.

A pale, blue wad of chewing gum dangled in front of me.

♦♦♦

A few seconds passed before Jannell answered my question.

“Hold on!” she said, still hunched over.

Her voice was strained, yet louder than I’d ever heard it before. 

“I’m about to pee my pants!!!”

I sprang from my chair to find the garbage can when Jannell, barely breathing but unfrozen, snatched the bucket from the corner of the room. I made the shot and my stomach tightened as laughter erupted from deep within.

When we regained composure, she styled the last of my curls. Her teenaged daughter, who had snuck in during my treatment, swept the floor around my chair.

I stood to pay – there were colorful, chunky scarves hanging above the desk. That same daughter had hand-made them and was selling them to earn money for college. Creativity had been passed down to the next generation.

I gave Jannell a hug and turned to leave, when a father and his young son entered the salon. The boy’s face lit up when Jannell moved toward him.

I wondered what they’d laugh about, while he sat in her chair.

A Special Offer From Jannell

First-time clients receive 10% off haircuts (children, teens, & chemical services excluded). Just mention code COPPERHOUSENORTH when you schedule your appointment.

Book an appointment today (and experience the magic for yourself!).

Thanks, Jannell!

A mantel inside All in the Palms, a hair salon in Cumming, GA.
All in the Palms, December, 2022.

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Photo by Moon DeSetto

Welcome to Copper House North! I’m Christina, an artist, designer, and author of The Miracle Farm. In 2011, I traded coding for creativity, with a passion for pursuing dreams. I’m here to share my personal experiences and creative inspirations to help fuel your creativity. And, cheer you on in living with intention. Thank you for being here!

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