I am four years old and I’ve been standing on a stepping stool for three hours while you pin and brush and slick my hair. You see, lately, I’ve been complaining about my hair. It’s not straight like the girls at pre-school. It’s not thin like the girls at pre-school. It’s not blonde like the girls at pre-school. No, it’s dark brown, and curly, and frizzy, and poofy…very poofy.
I think I’m ugly, and I think that if only I could change my hair to be more like the girls at pre-school, or Hilary Duff, or even yours, then maybe I’ll be pretty. You don’t agree with me, but it doesn’t matter, because you can see how truly upset I am.
“Don’t you dare touch her hair with any heat tools, Maureen.”
“But mom she really wants this.”
“She doesn’t know what she wants Maureen, she’s four, she needs to learn to accept her natural hair”.
“I’m not discussing this further, don’t be ridiculous”.
At least, that’s how I imagined it going. But you didn’t listen. So, you went out and got several pounds of hair gel and hairspray and any slicking, defrizzing, thinning product you could find. And I stood on that stepping stool in front of the bathroom mirror for hours, watching you pin and brush and slick my hair so my tight thick ringlets would unwind into a luscious flow of straight thin hair.
I can still hear the sound of your rings clicking together as you viciously rubbed the gel between your fingers. When you were finished, or maybe because you had no steam left, my hair was straight… well, straighter than before.
I felt beautiful.
I was happy. And we were happy. And then I showered. And my curly hair came back. And so did your cancer.
That’s one of the few memories I have of you where you weren’t in the hospital.
I didn’t know you were going to die. I mean, it wasn’t supposed to work like that, right? Parents died after they had become grandparents, and their hair had turned grey, and their bones become brittle, and their hearts were so full that their souls were ultimately released into paradise. But that didn’t happen to you.
I didn’t know it was going to be the last time when I saw you for the last time. You were too weak to speak, although I’m sure you tried, and I know you wanted to. In an act of trying to make me understand what was happening, I was told to hold your hand.
“Squeeze her hand, Maureen”.
If I wasn’t staring at my little five-year-old hand, not focusing on anything else, I would’ve missed it. It’s impossible to understand what it feels like to die unless you are dying. Yet, in that moment, when you attempted to squeeze my hand, making only a fraction of a very weak movement, I understood.
So, I wasn’t shocked when I got pulled out of my kindergarten class the next morning. I’ve always wondered how much the teachers knew. If they knew that at any moment, someone was going to come knock on their door, take the girl with the curly, frizzy, poofy hair out of class, and have her life changed forever.
Your funeral was the largest one I’ve ever seen, although I didn’t recognize half of the people there. Everyone was great, your cousins bought me enough presents to make me forget about the funeral and remember that my birthday was only a few days away.
And it worked. I had fun. and I’m sorry.
But the people left. They moved on. The stale perfume of the flowers faded away as well, and I had to accept that this was my new normal.
I wish I could tell you that I remembered you. I wish I could tell you that I thought about you every day. But I didn’t, and I can’t, and I’m sorry.
There were three of us, as you know, but because I was the only girl, I got the stares. I got the “you look so much like her”. Everything I did or said became about you. You talk like her, you dance like her, you act like her, you have her talents, you—and on, and on, and on.
I know what you would tell me, “they’re just trying to be nice”, and I know they are. And I know that they loved you and that I’m blessed to have had a mother so admired that the qualities I possess bring passing strangers to tears.
But I was young, and people would say: “You know you really have it the best out of anyone because you didn’t know her for very long, your brothers on the other hand—”.
And they reminded me constantly, and so I had no choice but to believe them.
So, I didn’t want to talk about you, I didn’t want to think about you, so I didn’t.
But then I became a pre-teen, and my hips got wider, my nose pointier, my face drier, my chest bigger, and I didn’t understand it and didn’t know how to control it and all I wanted was my mom.
And then I became a teenager, and I experienced a first love which led to a first heartbreak and all I wanted was my mom.
And then I had my last dance recital, and I graduated, and I went to university, and I was having these major moments in my life where all I wanted was my mom.
And then I suffered a trauma, and I didn’t want you, but I needed you. And I couldn’t have you, and that made me mad, that made me really angry.
It’s one of the most surreal feelings to want something that you can’t have.Sure, you may want a Tesla, and even though the odds are heavily stacked against you, there’s still a decimal percent chance that David Dobrik will show up at your door. You may be hopelessly in love with Harry Styles, but there’s still a chance that one day you’ll stumble upon each other and lock eyes and fall in love.
What I’m trying to say is that everything that one can desire on earth is possible. Extremely low odds, yes, but there’s still a chance.
Getting a hug from my mother, that’s impossible. Talking to her about pointless but fun drama, impossible. Having her help me get ready on my wedding day, impossible. Watching her become a grandmother to my children, impossible. It’s all just impossible, and even more so, it’s unfair.
Now that I’m older, I understand that I did not have it easier. It wasn’t easier to have not remembered you, to have not truly known you. Maybe people were just trying to protect me by convincing me so.
It’s easy to find yourself in a dismal approach to life when you consider all of the impossibilities of this cruel and unfair world.
Although you may have died, I never truly lost you.
On your funeral program, you wrote a poem or borrowed a poem, I can’t quite remember, that mentioned if we were ever wondering where you were, we could find you in the wind.
I’m not a spiritual person, my brothers and I lost our faith right around the time you were taken, but if I didn’t know better, I would think it to be awfully coincidental that the wind manages to pick up when I’m standing at the top of your grave.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think it to be you when I feel a soft breeze graze my shoulders when I’m feeling lost or alone.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was hearing the sound of your rings clinking together as the wind whistles between the trees.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was you I saw on the faces of the crowd as I took my bow at my last dance recital and walked across the stage at graduation.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think I’d felt you calming my nerves as I watched my father drive out of my residence parking lot on move-in day.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’ve been here the whole time, in the lights, and the wind, and the stars, guiding me to exactly where I needed to go.
But then again, what do I know?
I think of you now and then, during a time before I wasn’t there, and you were probably somewhere, letting the wind blow through your hair, thinking about the fact that you liked the sound of the name Haley.
I wonder if you ever thought that you would spend hours on end pinning and brushing and slicking her hair.
I guess this was all just to say, thank you for letting me feel your soft breeze, even when I went on for years thinking it was just the wind.
Header Image: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/569705421614540604/
HALEY MARANDO IS AN ONLINE CONTRIBUTOR FOR MUSE ONLINE.