Guest Post · Poetry

My Mother’s hair (For Pink October)


I have my Mother’s hair. Kinky, coarse, resilient to straighteners. My mother’s hair cannot be held down by pins, headbands, or snap-backs. No chemical solutions can separate her tightly woven coils. I have my Mother’s hair and it is a beauty to behold. Like me, it is stubborn, defiant, demanding of care and respect. My mother’s hair forces her to slow down, it teaches her to be patient, there no shortcuts to untangling its knots. My mother’s hair grows straight, on edge, defying gravity. My mother’s hair shrinks when wet, a magic trick exclusive to people that look like us. My mother’s hair is playful, whether long or short, in chunky braids or resting under a weave, my  mother’s hair is capable of whatever hairstyle matches her mood.  My mother’s hair defines beauty in itself. I have my mother’s hair.

I had my mother’s hair. Chemotherapy ripped it from her tender scalp. It started out gradually; loose hair in her head-wrap, a few strands in the shower drain. When the cancer spread, and the treatments increased, my mother’s hair could not leave her head any faster. They told us to expect hair loss, they told us it was inevitable but as my Mother held clumps of her crowning glory in her hands, nothing could have prepared her for this particular betrayal.

I had my mother’s hair. Maybe hers will grow back. Maybe the cancer cells will grow shame and leave her body.  Maybe my Mother will one day regain the strength to look at herself in the mirror. It may seem trivial; after all, it’s cancer. Why am I concerned about hair? I had my Mother’s hair. My mother’s hair found its way to my scalp. And it grew wildly, bridging the space between my self-loathing definition of beauty and acceptance of what grew naturally. And cancer took away my Mother’s hair and along with it a connection, a bond, and a statement.

I hope for a cure, truthfully I’ll be content with a kinder treatment. I look at the bald scalp that was once the foundation of my Mother’s glorious hair, and I hear of how many more treatments she will need. I sigh.  “I used to have my Mother’s hair”.

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