My son, Emerson Hart, released his second solo album today and on the inside cover is a picture of him in his studio in Nashville. On the wall behind my son is his grandfather’s fiddle and a grouping of family pictures, including a silhouette of me when I was about 13 years old. Seeing that silhouette reminded me of an event relating to my short hair in that period of my life.
Summer of 1946………
“Now don’t waste your time trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, young lady. Your curly locks you got from me, and they’ve suited me just fine!” Grandma used to say as she pulled and tugged at my golden mass of kink, taming the wildness on top of my head into thick braids tied with rubber bands at the ends. Much better her fussing with my hair than my mother, who would make the plats so tight my scalp would hurt for days.*
I was twelve and I had never had my hair cut. Ever. Except I did have bangs, but that was the only part of my wild flaxen locks that were ever touched. And to me that really didn’t count. I couldn’t wear my hair loose because it was like a big tumble weed on my head it was so thick. So my mother insisted and saw to it that I had braids for what seemed to me to be—-forever.
I was a cheer leader at Roosevelt School on LaBelle View in an industrial town on the Ohio River and in the sixth grade. To be a cheer leader for all of us girls chosen was really a big deal. But for me it was just the opposite. Almost an embarrassment. I had to suffer the humiliation of those braids when all my girlfriends had short hair. On Saturday nights I would hang out with my girlfriends who would wrap strands of hair into pin curls fastened with bobby pins like the grown up girls did. And I envied them for having mothers that understood.
But no matter how much I begged, my mother stood her ground and refused to budge regarding my golden braids – until her patience with my pleading wore thin when I was twelve. She went upstairs and got her big sewing scissors and with one final cut to each braid severed them from my head. Wack. Wack. Just like that. Then she sent me next door to my Aunt Dorothy who did hair from her house, to try to make something of what was left of my hair. Needless to say, that wasn’t easy.
I really should have been traumatized by the harsh and finality of my mother’s chopping off my braids, But at the time I was so relieved from not having those braids anymore, that I didn’t have any thoughts about what my mother did and how she went about it. It just was what it was and I grew into a teenager inside of myself instantly once those those appendages were removed from my head. Kind of a free-at-last .
But it wasn’t until forty five years later when my mother died and I was going through her things did I remember about those braids.
It is true that we never know what is in someone’s heart, a lesson I learned too late in my relationship with my mother.
I loved her very much, but sadly, I never understood how painful it must have been for her to cut from her daughter what she never had. There, in a long faded blue box that probably once held a necklace were my two golden braids-remarkably intact with the rubber bands still securing the silky curled ends.
* Behind The Magic Mirror, Sandra Hart. copyright 2002
Moonlight In Her Eyes, Sandra Hart
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.