On Sundays I wash and detangle Simone and Nadia’s hair. The routine often takes me back to the days when my mother washed and combed my hair.
I would stand on my tiptoes every two weeks as Mom washed my hair in the kitchen sink with Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo. After two washes, I would sit on the floor, while Mom sat on the couch. She would scoop Vaseline out of a plastic jar and grease my scalp. Then she would comb, brush, and braid my hair into silky ponytails.
“More Hair,” she said, when she was finished.
“Grow longer,” I replied.
I had no trouble growing hair. Taking care of it was the hard part. I had long hair and all the rules that came with it.
Rule No. 1: No one can comb your hair. Only Mom knew how to take care of it. One day one of my cousins cut a chunk of my hair. We both got a whipping.
Rule No. 2: Don’t invite bad luck by saying thank-you when someone does your hair. Instead, I had to say, “More hair, grows longer.” Mom had all kinds of sayings. ‘Til this day, I’ve never heard another person talk about this one.
Rule No. 3: No pressing combs. First, I had soft hair. Second, Mom was overly concerned I’d grow up too fast. Third, see reason No. 1.
Rule No. 4: Don’t tempt fate by letting two people comb your hair at the same time. For some reason, Mom thought it was bad luck. I’ve never broken this rule.
Rule No. 5: Don’t get sand in your hair. I broke this rule many, many times. The violation triggered an automatic trip to the kitchen sink.
The cycle has been broken. Simone and Nadia have never heard these rules.