Hair is essential. Hair is what we are judged by in some situations. When a young woman is bald we do not know how to react. Is she sick? Could she simply be happy with no hair? Perhaps she removed it to be free in one way or another? As a girl you’re raised to keep your hair long and neat and without anything but a natural colour. At least, that’s my experience. My hair is something of a family treasure considering how much of a rarity it is with my parents both having brown hair. Never have I been the spitting image of either of them.
I also have very long hair. It runs in tranquil tangles down my back. Since an unfortunate cut from a woman having a relationship with an underage boy I have vowed to go long and never, ever short. Besides, I doubt short hair could hold the memories and feelings otherwise. Twenty two years and always it’s always been a shade of blonde. In my immediate family there is no blonde hair. Only two people have blonde hair. They’re both dead now. One was my mother’s real father. I want to talk about him in another post. Never were there pictures of him, only a curt description from my mother. The other was my auntie on my father’s side; his younger sister. It’ll take me a few tries to write this one. Even now I feel my eyes growing hot, my stomach beginning to turn. This’ll be a long entry, I can tell you that.
Always I’ve been so different, harbouring the constant feeling that my body is distorted to fit this family puzzle. Do I really fit there? Sometimes I humour myself by thinking I’m adopted. Of course I love my family, of course I do. However to find the source for all these hard to explain differences would be beautiful and serene. To find someone like me would be… I can’t imagine. I don’t want to. It’s stupid to think like that.
My auntie had blonde hair, weathered and frail from when I saw her in 2007. Always she would call my Belgian grandma for my birthday and wish me a happy and special day. Always I would be at home, oblivious, too young to speak French or even understand. Never did she call for my sisters, only me. Apparently I was the spitting image of her; a round face, blue eyes, strawberry blonde hair. She was dying in hospital. My Auntie smoked too much. I only saw her once before she died. I hardly know anything about her. Perhaps she was this mystical family I was looking for and yet I allowed her to slip by, ignored.
The guilt weighs every golden strand down. I want to rationalise I was too young and too self centred as children are to understand but I won’t allow it. A few words down the phone line would’ve been enough. Now it’s something I’d happily do, mumbling bad French and trying to ask her what the weather is like. Caring. I only have one thing of hers; a well used paint box with half the colours gone. My mother suggested I return it to my father, her only brother. I couldn’t. I never did. It’s the only connection I have and a hint that perhaps we were more similar than I ever thought. The hospital bed made it hard to connect. You don’t realise how sharp guilt’s talons are until amending becomes impossible and self-loathing is the only solution.
It’s not something I think of every day but when I take the time to think about it I usually end up like this, crying quietly and promising to do better next time. I’ll keep my blonde hair and I’ll remember her and live in the ways she couldn’t in those last years of her slowly ending life. It’s all I can do.
I don’t know whether to thank my hair or simply dismiss it. It runs in messy curls the colour of ashen wheat and I promise to keep growing it and keep nodding at the compliments it draws in and keep waking up with it looking better than it ever would brushed and sticking my head over high places to feel the wind tickle my scalp. I’ll live with it as she once did. Perhaps, when I’m stronger, I’ll find out who she really was besides a frail woman in a hospital bed. Perhaps, I’ll find a little of myself in her.