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.
(Hair by Auntie Marcelle)