Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Ode to the Poof

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I kiss your sweet bald head.
Resting my cheek on the wispy strands that
Attempt to form a curl.
She looks like a boy your aunt frowns,
Coming at you with a pink Velcro bow
That she tries to attach.
You swat at her hand, giving her a look
That says No way and no thanks,
I'm quite comfortable with
Who I am.


Your hair comes in with a vengeance.
A tempestuous storm of twists and turns,
Bequeathed by your ancestral medley
Of Cameroon, England, and Barbados.
More hair than I'd ever seen on one little head.
Get that mess under control scold the grandmothers.
I comb and braid and oil.
I detangle, condition, repeat.
I try headbands, barrettes and other implements of confinement.
All to no avail, and the sound of your many tears.


I thought we'd found salvation
In the Dominican hairdresser
Who, I was assured, could work magic.
Her nimble fingers flew for hours,
Weaving your curls into intricate cornrows,
Clucking approvingly about your "good hair."
Mom, just cut it short, you plead that night.
The braids hurt and I can’t fit all this mess under my batter's helmet.
It's your head and I'm battle-weary.
You and baseball win.


I try to kiss your cheek
As you fly out the door, shaking your teenage head.
Shoulder-length ringlets shoved into a haphazard ponytail,
Basketball and too much studying leaving little time for vanity.
That night you search again for products that will tame the uncooperative beast.
A classmate said your hair was weird and no words comfort you.
Everyone has pretty, long hair but me.
You beg to have your hair straightened, certain then
That you will be more beautiful, that you will fit.
I reluctantly agree.


Your straightened hair is a marvel.
You flip the shiny, flattened locks over your shoulders
And run a comb effortlessly down the entire length.
You radiate unspeakable joy.
Your classmates are awestruck,
Repeating over and over You look so GORGEOUS!
But the curls rebel. After one hour of glamour
The strands begin to wave, then spiral, then vigorously kink.
Hello, they say. We're back!
Your curls have a mind of their own. Just like you.


And now you've flown from the nest.
I send you kisses using Skype and email.
I gaze from a distance in awe and wonder
At how comfortable you are in your own skin, your own curls.
Those magnificent coils
Looping and swirling and flying in all directions.
I've embraced the poof you laugh,
Using your childhood nickname for all that hair on your head.
Gotta be who you are, you wisely tell me,
Gotta be who you are.

Julie Clark is a non-fiction writer, wanna-be poet, and attorney who has authored numerous publications on disability, civil rights, and health care.  Still adjusting to being an empty-nester, she is the mom of an amazing daughter who attends college in St. Louis.

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