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Saturday, January 23, 2016

Preschooler’s Preference

I erroneously assumed that anything Jamie* noticed would be spewed forth from the little girl’s mouth shortly after drawing her attention. My middle foster daughter kept up a fairly constant chatter; when did her brain have time to ruminate on any one subject? But, then it happened.

“Mama Daw, make Jamie’s hair pitty, too.”

I spread out Susie’s* Cheerios on the highchair tray and turned to the almost-three-year-old. “Your hair is very pretty now, Princess.”

“Gwamma make a long curl on Susie’s head,” the youngster said, patting the top of her own head as she spoke. “Jamie want one, too.”

Deni* noticed my narrowed eyebrows, answering my unasked question. “Last time we visited Grandma, she combed Baby’s hair before church. She put a curl like a big sausage on top of Susie’s head, ‘member?”

I smiled at the memory of Mom doing that same thing to my younger sister a couple of decades earlier. “I don’t, but I do know that Grandma loved putting curls on babies.” Looking over at Jamie, I continued, “You remembered that?”

Jamie’s head bobbed, droplets of milk dripping from the corner of her mouth as she continued chewing her cereal.

“Your hair is much thicker than Susie’s. God made your hair have its own curls already. You won’t ever need to spend time trying to make them like Susie and Deni will.”

Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpsed Deni touching her bright red hair. “You have lovely loose curls now, Sweetie. Sometimes the hair stays like that, but sometimes it loses a bit of the curl when you grow up. I expect that you’ll keep some of the natural wave, so it’ll be easy to keep your hair looking good. God gave you very pretty red hair.”

Deni giggled and returned to her breakfast. Jamie reached for her orange juice but seemed to be deep in thought. I bent to retrieve fallen little donut-shaped cereal from the floor next to Susie.

“Jamie never need to make curls?”

“Honey, you have so many curls already. I don’t see where you could put any more.”

Jamie sat silently, obviously ruminating over her dilemma. In about three months, this beautiful little African-American girl would have her third birthday. A cap of soft, tight black curls covered her head.

“You cut Shannon’s daddy’s hair. Jamie want you cut her hair, too.” The smile returned with a quick nod. “Jamie want hair to be pitty.”

I reached over and gently stroked the preschooler’s head. “I think your hair is very pretty right now.” I rapidly scrolled through my mental calendar trying to recall how long ago I’d trimmed Keith’s hair. Weeks?

“I’m so amazed you remember these things, Jamie. You’ve never said anything about wanting something done to your hair.”

“Jamie want somethin’ now.”

Carefully pulling a few strands of soft black curls, the length of the fully-stretched hair surprised me. “Well, Jamie, you might be due for a haircut. I had no idea your hair had grown so long. Would you like me to cut your hair later this morning?” The strands of hair bounced right out of my fingertips with Jamie’s vigorous nodding. “Okay, Princess. I have a few things to do first, but I’ll call you when it’s time for your haircut.”

An hour later, Carroll laughed over the phone line as I recounted Jamie’s requests. “I don’t remember when you cut Keith’s hair either, but it’s been long enough that he looks like he could do with another trim.”

“I just can’t believe that a kid not even three can care about her hair, Carroll!”

My good friend and mother of three chuckled. “Oh, you must have forgotten the story of your college roommate’s little girl. Remember? Beth* had wanted an Afro and hounded her mother until she got the perm.”

“Oh, that’s right,” I said, laughing out loud as I re-played the three-year-old’s first look at herself in the mirror. “She pulled a chair up to help her reach the mirror. Patting the sides of her new Afro, the preschooler said, ‘I’ve wanted my hair like this my who-o-ole life!’ So, yeah, I guess Jamie’s not too young to care about her hair.”

“She’s all girl, Dar,” Carroll said, adding a warning. “Be careful not to cut too much off, though. Her curls are like little springs.”

Once the deed had been done, I realized I’d focused too much on being sure the strands all had the same length and not enough on Carroll’s admonition. I put the scissors on the counter next to Jamie’s chair and stepped back.

As I stared at the precious little head, a wave of horrifying regret raced through me. My beautiful princess now looked like a prince. Springs, indeed! The soft jet-black curls covered the kitchen floor around Jamie’s blue chair.

Gingerly tapping her hair, the eager child said, “Am I pitty, Mama Daw? Am I pitty, weally pitty?”

I smiled in response to the young child’s huge grin. “Oh, yes, Jamie! Your hair is sooo pitty. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen hair that pitty before today.”

“Jamie go look!” She said as she jumped down from her booster chair and bolted for the mirror.

A sick feeling flooded my tense stomach. I tried to remind myself that it’d grow back, but I feared what I’d done with the scissors would really hurt my daughter’s feelings. I know I wanted to sit down and cry.

Don’t worry about it, I heard Keith say in my mind, the difference between a bad haircut and a good one is two weeks. In Jamie’s case, it might be more like two months.

Finally, I heard the running footsteps of both girls. Fearing the worst, I braced myself for their tears.

Looking up from the wooden chair by the table, I saw two beaming little faces—one freckled and one a lovely ebony.

“Oh, tank you, Mama Daw. Tank you! You gib Jamie pitty hair!” Jamie threw her slender arms around me, squeezing with all her strength. “I love you, Mama Daw!”

Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder? Doesn’t matter; it’d grow back. Jamie liked it like that. Whew and yippee! Hopefully, it’d be long enough by Thanksgiving that my mother’d never know what I did to her precious little Jamie’s beautiful hair.

*Names changed 

Story thread began with the following link: With Just One Phone Call

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