Friday, November 13, 2009

The Hair Thing

When we were in the process of adopting everyone wanted to talk to us/me about black hair. Black hair is very different from white hair. It doesn't grow fast at all, it is coarse, and for Abegail hard to comb out.
But black people worship their hair. To them it is their crown. In Liberia people didn't have food, water, or plumbing but they had perfect hair. Many women spent their days braiding and rebraiding hair. When we looked at the schedule at the AFAA house there was almost as much time allowed for hair braiding as there was for school.
I didn't get it. I don't care about hair. I don't care about my own hair. To me fixing a head of hair came in one word: PONYTAIL.
I did get the black hair products, it's important to keep the scalp moisturized, and keeping the hair in tight braids will help it grow.
Black women would still come up to me and give me advice and tips on Abegail's hair.
But what I didn't realize was we got off easy in Minnesota. On the East Coast there are more black people, more black moms, and they do not approve of how I am taking care of or rather not taking care of Abegail's hair.
I was at a soccer practice talking with a mom of one of Abegail's teammates and a woman came up to me and told me we needed a deep soak of pink lotion on Abegail's head. "You can buy it anywhere." After she left, the mom said, "what was that all about?" I said, "Oh I don't do Abegail's hair right, I get about one woman a month desperately trying to educate me about Abegail's hair." She said, "Wow if someone came up to me and told me how to do Liza's hair I'd be irate." "Yea, its the hair thing. I just listen and move on."
But this week it happened: I was having one of those weeks where even with my curve my grades as a mom were not that good. Abegail usually comes home with our neighbor but our neighbor was sick that day so I went to find her at school since it was rainy and cold.
She missed me or I missed her and I found her walking up the hill in front of our house as I was coming back home.
She stopped me. "Mom there's a woman who wants to talk to you. She's black."
"I can handle it," I said.
So I go up to the woman. She had followed Abegail home to find me.
She starts off, "Are you her mom?"
"Is she adopted?"
I glanced at my skin and said, "Yes."
Then she started, "Well you know black hair is hard. I know of a great shop at 395 and Little River Turnpike and I want to take you there. You can get all the things you need. Lotion which will smooth out her hair, they even have a salon in the back. When would you like to go? What does tomorrow look like for you?"
"Uhhhhhhh.....I am volunteering at two Grace Art classes tomorrow at school."
"I'll come help you," she says. "Then after school we'll go to the salon."
Thinking of about a thousand things I thought were more important than the hair salon I stuttered, "Uh, ok."
Then I asked, "Did you bring Abegail home?"
"Oh no," she says. "I didn't want to overstep my bounds since I didn't know you."
Now I don't know if I have a vitamin deficiency, if I haven't breathed in enough East Coast air, or I have just used up all of my rational brain cells. But I found myself confused at that statement. Then it occurred to me, I bet this woman is chairman of the bus driver appreciation committee.
So yesterday after school I followed her to the shop. And she took us back to the salon. Four women from Sierra Leone, which is directly north of Liberia, all perched over heads braiding and tugging at hair.
Miss Tara introduced us and the women who were all over Abegail.
"Oh...ABAA--GAIL..." In the accent E-man had when he first came home. "You come you pretty girl, what style would you like?"
Abegail looked through a book and picked one.
I called Scott, "We'll be home Tuesday, possible Wednesday."
has had some hairstyles that have taken longer than some of the marathons I have run. This is not because I'm a fast runner.
But Miss Marie started on Abegail's hair. Meanwhile other women looked like they were running a marathon. They should have chiropractors and water stations at black hair shops. Necks are turned in ways they should not go.
An older woman comes in unsure what to do with her hair. She goes to buy some extensions or half a wig (not the official name) and comes back and waits and waits and waits. Finally she says, "I'll come back tomorrow." But Tutu says, "no, stay, we are almost finished."
These women are on African time, the woman waiting is not. 45 minutes later she still was not in their chair and I could feel her anxious energy. It did not bother the women doing hair one bit. They all chatted about their babies and their fros and to me they would say, "I hope you go to my country."
An hour and a half after the woman had been anxious to get started she was finally in the chair. I asked her what her name was, "Mrs. Green." Oh, I said feeling very much at home and friendly with all my new black friends, "what is your first name?" It's MRS. OK then.
Turns out Mrs. Green didn't like the 1/2 wig she had bought and when we left she was still deciding what to buy and how to style her hair.
Two hours into Abegail's marathon I decided to try on wigs. I could use a new hairdo even if I don't care.
"Uh Miss, you need a wig cap to wear those."
"Oh and I suppose they are for black people too??"
Finally after three hours, Abegail has a beautiful new hairdo. She has been looking in the mirror so long they had to windex it half way through.
If we can just get her out of the bathroom now.
OK Miss Tara you were right, Abegail's hair looks better, thanks for looking after 'your people.'

Here We Go Again
E-man is going to have another eye surgery next Friday. The doctor here says he's not surprised the first one didn't work because his muscle is so damaged. This time they are going to try and attach the eye lid muscle to the forehead muscle with string (obviously not the medical term). I told them to have extra popsicles on hand.

Quotes from Annie on Veterans Day:

Annie: Daddy, today is a special day
Daddy: Yes, it is. What day is it?
Annie: I forgot.
(guess they cover that part in first grade)


gretchen said...

What an ordeal!!?!? It does take a bit to get used to East coast again. No Minnesota nice out there. :) Abegail's hair looks great and I am totally on the ponytail team :)

The Googeg's said...

OOOH the HAIR THING! It looks beautiful.


Doodle's Diary said...

Abegail looks gorgeous! I bet she can't keep her hands out of her hair now. I remember going with my sister to one of those braiding salons and feeling like I was never going to get out of there (and a complete outsider.) Honestly, I'm not nervous about having a daughter. I'm nervous about doing her HAIR! :)

Valerie said...

Abegail you always look beautiful no matter how you have your hair.

Sue - I guess I am on the OK time no one ever comes up and tells me anything about Maima's hair. Not so interested here I guess. Thank God!! Besides I have asked her several times if she wants to have her hair done and she says NO IT HURTS!

Marisa said...

oh my!!!!! well I think she does look beautiful, Sue. I give you many kudo. you are wonderful mom.


Anonymous said...

We love your hair, Abegail. How long does it stay curled like that? You are beautiful no matter what! Grandma R.

Bob, Carie, Taylor, Opie and Friday said...

Gotta love the comments we get huh? It looks beautiful!!!!
Yup, ponytail team here too!

Andries said...

Whew! I'm so thankful I've got two boys! We take them to All Nations Barber Shop in St. Paul though. Like Miss Tutu's, we figure it promotes positive self-image and identity....and besides that, for a reward we all go across the street to eat Ethiopian food afterwards!
It's a whole new world, eh?!
Prayers for Eman!!!


Nancy said...

Abegail -
I think you are gorgeous with your new hairdo too, but I always thought you were gorgeous anyway. Someday, maybe, you will appreciate what your Mom goes through for you. I love you all.