Grandma’s Hair: Back to Baby Soft

Grandma’s Hair: Back to Baby Soft

Aint weekends grand? Love and inspiration I get on the weekends charge me up!

We were on our way to church, about 6:45 a.m. – in time for breakfast , when Grandma realized she had forgotten her hat.

“Look at my hair. It’s a mess!” she said, looking at herself in the visor on her side.

“I guess I hadn’t noticed because you’re usually wearing a hat,” I said, mostly keeping my eyes on the road, but glancing to my right to notice that her hair was, in fact, undone.

She changed the subject .

“I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings yesterday,” she said. “I know you’ve got to live your own life, and you will wear what you want to wear.”

“Didn’t bother me,” I said.

She had criticized my dress as too short, and said my husband might react to such inappropriate dress.

“No man wants to see his wife leaving the house that way,” she had said. But I felt that I had defended myself by explaining that her sensibilities were “from another generation.”

In the fellowship hall at her church we enjoyed breakfast together and talked about her recently deceased best friend whose husband had been insensitive during her season of sickness. I listened as Grandma shared her opinions as if they were rock-solid “gospel.” Her friend’s husband surely would suffer for mis-treating his wife in her time of need, Grandma said.

“That kind of stuff comes back on you. You can’t turn your back on the sick. His conscious will eat away at him,” she said. I nodded, indicating agreement just to keep the peace. “She asked him to hand her a magazine, and he told her to get up and get it herself,” she had told me. “I was over there with her one day, and she told me he hadn’t even come home the night before. The last thing you need when you’re sick is for your husband not to come home.”

Seemed so sad.

I enjoyed my pancakes while she ate her grits although her face looked painfully sunken in without teeth to hold up her jaws. She’d lost her last two pairs of dentures and Granddad, who fusses profusely, finally agreed to pay for a pair of custom-fit dentures. I looked at her, and, thinking about her relentless criticism, thought of an old joke: “How’s your mom gonna take a bite outta crime when she ain’t got no teeth?” Grandma’s opinions could be biting even when she’s literally toothless.

A few moments later, in the mirror in the bathroom, she lamented the lifeless look of her hair. It was un-styled, flat.

“My hair’s a mess!” she said.

“Let me see what I can do,” I said reaching for the blue plastic comb she retrieved from her purse.

I combed it all straight back at first, and marveled at how soft it was. It was soft and manageable like baby’s hair. I quickly realized it had a natural soft curl that could be easily shaped around my fingers.

“Grandma you got curls! Naturally!” I said, clearly delighted.

I combed all her hair straight and curled the ends at the nape of her neck. Looking at her in the mirror, I admired my handi-work, then decided I could do better. I parted her hair on the side and styled it the way I wore my own hair just a couple years ago.

“I liked it better the way it was,” she said.

I thought she looked younger, more stylish in my style, so I was not inclined to change it for her. She accepted the style and we proceeded to the sanctuary. A young man stopped her and complimented her on her hair.

“Thanks. My Granddaughter did it,” she said with a smile.

I felt vindicated.  She had persuaded me to wear a long dress, which I considered old fashioned. Now, I had her in a new-fangled hair-do. Even! She looked cute. I was happy and so was she.

Later that day, I remembered pictures I had seen of her as a young woman wearing the most stylish wigs. I remembered her pressing her hair. She had taught my mother to press hair and later taught me. When I was a young woman wearing perms, Grandma was in her 50s and 60s wearing a short, natural fro. Her hair was growing long in her 70s and when she began chemo-therapy, we feared she would lose it all. I took her to the beauty parlor a few times on my dime since her husband considered that an unnecessary luxury she couldn’t afford.  She began washing it and setting it on old-fashioned rollers, the pink sponge kind. Now it had become soft and naturally curly again.

These days she wears her hats she’s collected over the years, but this particular Sunday she’d left home without a hat. I was happy to comb her tresses. In doing so, I was reminded of memories with her I’d treasured.

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Honey Suckle Anyhow

Honey Suckle Anyhow

I was leaving home, heading into the city to pick-up my grandparents to take them to church, one Sunday morning when I decided to grab a hand full of fresh honey suckle from the nearby forestry to sweeten my ride.

Honey suckle grows wild in my neighborhood. But I hadn’t thought to pick some to freshen my home and car until I saw a neighbor picking it.

I had loved honey suckle since I first noticed it’s sweet fragrance as a little girl. It grew in the front yard of my biological grandmother, the woman who had given my mother away as a toddler and later rejected my mother’s attempts to reconnect. I hated visiting her because she was so mean. But I was forced to spend time with her, and, to make the most of it, I delighted in whatever I could. When my cousins and I discovered the honey suckle bush in her front yard, we delighted in pulling the stem from the flower and dipping it on our tongue to savor its sweet juice. Honey scent of honey suckle always reminded me of this grandmother I loved to loath.

This grandmother had been contrary when not down right mean. Unlike the woman who adopted my mother and became affectionately known to me as “my real Grandmother,” my biological grandmother had mocked religion and church folk, calling it all “some foolishness,” and “non-sense.” This grandmother, who had conceived 11 babies by a married man and given all but three up for adoption, had gone to church only on Bingo nights as far as I knew. She had left her three young children at home to fend for them selves. She had used the child support money their father gave her to gamble. She had died a withering death, first losing her ability to maintain her own health and hygiene, then she succumbed to heart disease. But honey suckle always reminded me of her because I had discovered it first in her front yard.

As I picked a couple fists full of honey suckle to scent my car for my ride to church this particular morning, I delighted in realizing that God had blessed this grandmother with abundant honey suckle in her own yard despite her often spoken disdain for our notions of God and for organized religion. God had blessed her with honey suckle anyhow.

I was reminded that the sun shines on sinner and saint and the rain nourishes us regardless of our beliefs.