“Daddy, can you blow dry my hair this weekend?”
That’s how it usually starts, “Wash Day.” Black hair care is no joke. Especially in my house. The ladies in the Tennie home take hair seriously. The running joke is that when I’m seriously dating someone, I’ll know he’s the one if he can blow dry my hair. It’s actually not even that much of a joke because, he’s really going to have to do it.
“Uh, yeah, I think I can do that,” is my dad’s usual reply. The day is set, the required tools gathered.
It always has to happen over the weekend because it’s a lengthy process. I’ve got that seriously kinky hair that starts to lock up in no time. It’s an all day affair. You have to comb it out first, then wash it. That’s 2.5-3 hours right there. Then blow dry it. That’s an hour and a half, but it’s a nice break before the real work begins.
I can skip the blow drying part and get straight to twisting, but it’s a different style, a different look. I’d always told mommy, “I like it best when we do it.” The “we” in that statement summed up the proper styling technique that’s come to be my favorite.
Wash Day always happens over Christmas vacation. You can’t have that many days off in a row and not spend one of them dedicated to hair.
Daddy would make sure that his blow drying technique was on point because he knew that the straighter my hair was, the easier it would be for mommy to do it. We always wanted things to be easier for mommy with her back problems and all.
She would always call me her human Barbie Doll. She never complained about doing my hair. She ended up getting really fast, too. She could twist my hair in about 5-6 hours on a really good day.
As I got older I would always “start.” That meant I’d get the back three our four rows going, give mom a little time to rest or do some school work. She’d come in and check on my progress, “You ready for me to help?” “Almost,” I’d say.
When it was her turn, I’d move from my perch on the right hand side of the couch to a cushion on the floor. She always made a fuss about making sure I had the right amount of pillows so my back wouldn’t hurt. I think she was projecting.
When I moved to Stuart, there were a few weekends that I wasn’t able to make it home. So Wash Day happened on my own. But not really. It was just a matter of time before I hailed her on FaceTime.
“Hi mommy! I’m doing my hair.”
“Oh very nice, very nice (except she’d end up pronouncing it “veddy” with an affected accent.)”
“But mom, I can’t get the part, I need you to help me with the part.”
I have this thing where I must have bangs over my right eye. Once, someone did the part wrong and the bangs were over the left eye instead and I had an identity crisis because I would flick my head to the right and nothing would happen. I looked like I’d developed some sort of tick. It was bad.
“Well, let me see what you’ve got.” She’d say.
So then it became a process of angling the phone and mirrors properly so she could give me the right instruction so I could get the part just right. The part was always a big deal. Even when she was doing my hair I’d have to turn around, face her, kneel down, remind her which direction the hair needed to fall, and then she’d make it happen, after a few tries, to get it right.
Christmas 2015 mommy was recovering from a surgical procedure. A few days later, was Wash Day. I had combed out my hair, washed it and had daddy blow dry it. I was sitting on the couch for hour and hours doing my hair.
“Pooh, I want to help you do your hair.”
“No mommy, it’s ok, you need to rest and recover.”
A few hours later…
“Pookie, maybe I can help after I take a little nap!”
“Mom, go lay down, it’s fine. Listen, I can do it, I just need you to help me with the part, okay? Go to sleep!”
Later she came back in the family room, “Oh wow, these are beautiful! You’re doing them so tiny!” She said.
“Am I really?! That must be why it’s taking me so long, this is ridiculous! Is it time for you to do my part for me?”
It was unceremonious. The last time she parted my hair.
“I’ll plait it for you in case you don’t finish it tonight so you don’t lose the part.”
“Which way is it supposed to go again?”
“Over my right eye, mommy!”
“Okay, go look in the mirror, see if I did it right.”
“I think it’s good!”
For some reason it was taking me forever to do my hair. I had been on the couch for hours and I felt like I wasn’t even half way done. I was up till two in the morning before I finally gave in and went to bed.
The next morning I was back on my couch corner. It was New Year’s Eve. I planned to head back to Stuart once I finished my hair.
I could tell she was bummed because she hadn’t been able to help me do my hair. I think at one point she even apologized. She was also proud though. It took me forever, but my hair looked good! The part was in the right spot, bangs were bangin’.
I kissed her goodbye before I left. That was the last time I saw my mommy.
Today is Wash Day. I couldn’t bring myself to do it, so I called the hair salon. Then I realized that going to the salon meant that my part would get lost. That realization hurt. It’s a simple part in a hairstyle, but it’s a piece of my mom I won’t ever get to have again.
Wash Day. Means something different than it used to somehow.