La moñita is disappearing. Moñita is the Spanish word for “little ponytail” and it’s what we’ve always called the hair patch at the center of my dad’s hairline. Removing his baseball cap reveals the remaining gray strands. Back in the day, la moñita was a child’s fistful-worth of wiry black hair. It was a mini-pompadour, carefully lifted and shaped from its sharp widow’s peak beginning and blended into the cropped black hair on the rest of his head. For the whole of their marriage, my mother has utilitarianly buzzed my dad’s hair with the #2 setting on the trimmer. At every monthly cropping, my father covers the patch with his squat hand and says, “La moñita no.”
La moñita added perceived height to my dad’s 5’ 5” frame and shielded the bald spot that now spills over the top of his head. It was always his one point of vanity, causing him to curse windy days as much as a cottony coiffed old lady. While nothing else on his head moved, la moñita would be upright like an exclamation point punctuating his grumbles of “maldito viento/cursed wind.”
As a child, I groomed la moñita as carefully as my doll’s hair. Sitting on the back of the sofa, behind my dad as he read The Daily News or El Vocero, la moñita was treated to my best hair accessories: sparkly ponytail holders, bright plastic barrettes shaped like flowers, silk hair ribbons. I would follow giggling as he walked into the kitchen for a soda and my mother would look at him and say, “Que lindo te ves, Jose/You look beautiful, Jose.”
My dad and I recently went fishing on a bright cloudless day. I removed his “Amherst Dad” cap to apply sunblock on his bald spot and remarked, “Wow, papi, la moñita is almost gone!” His forehead crinkled as he tried to look up at his hairline; then he laughed as he ran his hand over the almost smooth stretch of skin.
“Es la juventud/It’s my youth,” he said.
“Ha!” I laughed in response. “But you’re still lindo,” I said as I kissed the spot where his widow’s peak used to be.