Friday, November 26, 2010

Hairy situation

 ~ Gladys Cardiff

Bending, I bow my head
and lay my hands upon
her hair, combing, and think
how women do this for
each other. My daughter’s hair
curls against the comb,
wet and fragrant— orange
parings. Her face, downcast,
is quiet for one so young.

I take her place. Beneath
my mother’s hands I feel
the braids drawn up tight
as piano wires and singing,
vinegar-rinsed. Sitting
before the oven I hear
the orange coils tick
the early hour before school.

She combed her grandmother
Mathilda’s hair using
a comb made out of bone.
Mathilda rocked her oak wood
chair, her face downcast,
intent on tearing rags
in strips to braid a cotton
rug from bits of orange
and brown. A simple act
Preparing hair. Something
women do for each other,
plaiting the generations.

I'm in such a rush in the morning, and leave so early, that the children are still asleep or groggily emerging from their rooms by the time I've got my bag over my shoulder and am heading towards the door.  Alas, little Wanna still wants Mummy to do her hair.  Nothing more intricate than plaits or piggy tails, but still, for me, a complicated affair trying to get the partings straight, not pull knots and not produce 'bumps' as she calls anything less than completley slicked back.  It's fraught.  Yesterday, I quickly produced two small, dangly side plaits which satified her requirements, although when I picked her up in the afternoon it appeared that Daddy had quite expertly combed the whole lot into a ponytail.  Morning hair has clearly a become a team effort.


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