“How did you manage to bleach your dreadlocks?” I exclaimed as I reached out in horror to touch the light brown tip of her hair.
She was clueless.
I rolled the loc in my fingers and the color began to return to it. Slowly, it dawned on me- this was not bleach.
“Honey, this is dirt! How on earth did you manage to get this much dirt in your hair?”
“Oh, I was swinging!”
Suddenly, I could see it all. Rare balmy late winter afternoon. A swing. Blue skies.
And my little eight-year-old dreadlocked wonder just leaning back in the swing, sweeping the bare spot of dirt underneath it with her hair…over and over again.
“Baby,” I groaned, “We will have to wash it now!”
It was a school night. There were kids to chauffeur, dinner to finish, homework to check, and a thousand other tasks. I was already exhausted and I didn’t have time for hair.
And yet, hair I would do.
Later, the scent of peppermint filled the air as I squeezed warm water and Dr. Bonner’s Pure Castile Soap through her locs and massaged her scalp. Then, she sat on the edge of the tub wrapped in a towel as is “popped them”- the term for the process of separating any locs that have become messy at the root. Afterwards, I palm rolled them as she sat patiently in a chair in the kitchen. A little dread wax here. A little loc gel there.
An hour or so later (warp speed for black hair) she was tucked in a blanket and dozing beneath the dryer.
I couldn’t help think how lucky she is to be the baby of five. She is the beneficiary of the lessons her older siblings have taught me- lessons about patience, grace, and how to breathe a little.
I see them written in the shadow of her 16-year-old brother, so much taller than me now, as he walks out the door to go to his after school job…
Life is short.
As her older sister opens letters from academic programs seeking to woo her their way, I see the lessons scrawled across the bits of envelopes as they flutter into the wastebasket…
So soon, so soon, they will be gone. Enjoy them while you can.
And so today, I will. I am determined to laugh more, smile more. I am determined to focus not on all that is difficult, but on all the reasons I have to give thanks.
I am determined to keep a little perspective.
Even if there is another dreadlock disaster.