Thursday, July 7, 2011

Painful Beauty

My brother's daughter has gorgeous hair – long, thick, silky honey. The weekend before my stroke, I French-braided a headband across the top of her head. She was only four, but she sat still with her head tilted sideways while I worked. At one point, she said, "Ow! Auntie, that hurts!"

"Beauty is pain," I told her.

My sister-in-law doesn't French braid. Shortly after I got out of the hospital, I bought her a "how-to braid" book. I studied it twice before wrapping it. The French Rope Braid was so intriguing, I found myself thinking about it during nights when I'd awake uncomfortable and unable to sleep. I would imagine rope-braiding my niece's hair – my nimble fingers sectioning and coiling the golden strands.

I have come to accept that braiding is another skill I won't relearn. The conditions that allowed me to develop it in the first place – two years on the cheerleading squad and my own long hair – are gone. I have stopped thinking during sleepless nights about braiding and turned my thoughts in other directions. But I still get a bittersweet pang of wistfulness when I look at my beautiful niece and run my hand over her glorious hair.

Abigail, 3-27-10
(Hair by Auntie Marcelle)


  1. Beautiful niece, beautiful hair. Maybe you should grow your hair again and have Abigail braid it for you :)

  2. That was such a wonderful weekend. I am inspired to study the braid book again. It's been in the back of my mind. That was Abby's last French braid :(

  3. What a lovely little girl!
    Maybe someday she will be a cheerleader like her Aunty was!

  4. Hair can be quite significant can't it. I'm bald and shave my head. My young nephew asked if I became a buddhist because I lost my hair. I laughed before realising how astute the question was. I have alopecia universalis (lost all my body hair)and it was a painful trigger to a complete change of values and life-style- hair today- gone tomorrow, love joe