Award winning author, Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Aster finally stopped fussing. As my daughter sprints her way toward four, as she dances her way through napless afternoons, and her mother wishes for fifteen minutes of silence, one thing is sure and lovely and as deeply good as it gets: my baby girl is growing up.
There was a time not long ago, actually, maybe even just six months? when Baby Girl would not, WOULD NOT, sit to get her hair done without threatening her with no movie that night. Every sit-down with a head of hair on the verge of becoming dreadlocks was met with protestation. And, in me, a thumping heart that threatened another shingles outbreak. I took her agony (dramatized or not) personally, feeling at fault that she has the kind of hair that needs fairly constant attention.
About three weeks ago she said she wanted me to throw the brush away. I had been using mostly my fingers to undo the knots anyway. So, I handed her the brush and said, “Go ahead, toss it in the garbage can.” Been using only my fingers ever since. (Though I do, admittedly, sneak in a wide-tooth comb from time to time.)
I was sitting behind Aster yesterday morning as she pondered PBS’s Curious George (her very favorite of all possible things to watch) with the pink spray bottle, the de-tangling spray purchased at the Co-op, not Target, because she rages against products that “smell” (meaning do not buy conditioner that you couldn’t get at the farmer’s market) and the coconut/olive oil mixture, thinking: How could anybody NOT like having one’s mother patiently run gentle fingers through one’s hair, each and every morning of one’s life? I thought, Hmm, isn’t this a luxury?
I do get it that the grass is always greener, and those with curly hair want straight hair, and we with thin, straight hair would kill for a head of hair like Aster’s. (I actually for the first time ever this past winter had my hair permed. After just two months, it’s pretty much gone flat again.) However, and this is big news in our house: yesterday, Aster asked for beads.
Last week, in anticipation of our 17-year old bi-racial nanny returning to help me out a few hours a week now that track season is over, Aster picked out a package of pink hair beads, discovered, disbelievingly, at our local CVS. (Times they are a change-ing.) As the two sat to do hair, pink beads, wide-tooth comb, spray bottle, and a bobby pin for placing the beads at M.’s side, I retreated to my desk downstairs. I shut the door, lit a candle, and prayed that I would have a solid two hours to get some work done without being interrupted by shrieks of, Mommy! Aster had not had her hair done by M. in many months, even on the rare visit during track season because she had decided that only Mommy was gentle; M. and Daddy were not.
I do have an excuse, though: M. was born in Tobago, and her mother has been reported to be one strong black woman. (I say “reported” because I have met N., and she appears to be one of the most serene people I know.) There are so many lessons that I, as an adoptive mother of an African girl, could learn from the African American community of women, and one of these is how to ignore the whining, crying, squirming, attitude of a curly-haired girl who either needs to have her hair worked on daily, or have it all cut off.
“Don’t cut my hair!” Aster has screamed on the many occasions that her father and I have threatened the scissors. There is something lovely, however, about a two year old becoming a three year old, and more blissfully, a three year old about to turn four: Vanity.
M. left, and throughout the evening Aster enjoyed wagging her head from side-to-side to hear the sound and feel the flap of three bead-infused braids framing her face. She fondled the beaded braids, and pushed them dramatically away from her eyes, like a model at a photo shoot, or, perhaps, like one of her schoolmates she sees with long, straight hair that gets in the way on the playground. Nevertheless, at bedtime, when it was my turn to read her the last book of the night, I asked, “What book are we going to read tonight?”
She emphatically crossed to the bookshelf and pulled out a book I recently purchased. “This one!” she exclaimed.
I Love My Hair!, by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley. “Wow, really?” I asked. She had just as emphatically, two weeks earlier when the book had arrived, shouted “I don’t WANT to read that book!”
I lay next to my daughter now, cramped in the toddler bed after a very long day. I held the book up so that we both could see. Mesmerized by the pictures of the accessories and the colorful combs and the grimacing face of the girl who sat bravely as her mother untangled her hair, Aster, I could tell, started to feel proud.
As she walked down the stairs to the car before school this morning, she stopped to view herself in the mirror. “That’s ASter!” she declared and shook her head.
“That’s Aster,” I confirmed. My joyful, beautiful daughter with the amazing hair.