learning to braid

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“Momma can you please braid my hair?”

a ritual request with each daily fading of light from the window

I would make my way over in matching flower PJs on the cold tile floor of my parent’s bathroom

(the one which would later be demolished by a an energetic earthquake fault line directly below)

I would then kneel patiently as my mother’s hands parted the waves of tangles

and calmly bushed out each section

she would begin to deftly wrangle the flyaway strands together

while enquiring about my day at preschool

the stories would weave themselves into the growing plait to be finished off

with a yellow hair tie

my two swinging kite tails were inseparable from my appearance

untouched by scissors for years

they were long enough that some thought my family was Pentecostal

hardly a day in my childhood where my hair wasn’t scarcely contained into two long braids

I couldn’t imagine my reflection without them

I was so afraid of growing up that I vowed I would never turn seven or move out of the house

(a statement I am frequently reminded of as I search for colleges)

so I obstinately refused to learn to braid my own hair for years

on stressful nights my requests were answered with passive-aggressive suggestions that I

go and ask my dad, an inconceivable solution

yet finally as I lost more teeth, my hands gravitated from my doll’s hair to my own

a shift from purposeful dependence

it was a change that brought bittersweet relief to my mother

in the turbulence of middle school self-consciousness overwhelmed

insecurity led me to adopt the mainstream and classic ponytail

through even now, in moments of unguarded seclusion I still braid my own hair

down to the very ends

when surrounded by glaciers, tress and a few family friends

it is my escape

back to the times when I moved freely

followed by the two streaming tails of a exultant kite

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