I deposited boys in the church parking lot, they remembered to kiss and hug me good-bye before delving into what might be the most fun week of their year: Kamp Kingsland. They are geared for five rowdy days of fun, friendship and experiencing God together at a place that has every activity a teenager dreams about doing. Donny went as a camp counselor this year, and he has a group of eighth grade guys in his care. It is a unanimous vote in the LaTorre house, next year everyone comes back for Kamp Kingsland to reunite with their friends. And it gives me great pleasure both to know they are having the time of their lives, and that I return to a somewhat quiet house.
To ease the pain of being the one left behind, Jack was allowed the rare treat of a sleepover with his two best buddies around the corner. That left Kira and Mama. Oh my, what should we do with a house to ourselves? First of all we had a beauty session after naptime, where Kira got her first home made hair style. I’m rather fond of the “puffs” look scattered over her head. It will be a long while, if ever, before I attempt the itty bitty braids. I’ll leave that style for the professionals to work out, and I’ll bring all the distractions necessary to get it properly set.
She didn’t really mind me pulling at her hair and tying it in colorful bands. She played with a pile of the rubber bands while I sectioned off pieces and when she lost interest in that I set her in her high chair with raspberries, potato chips and her favorite: pumpkin bread. At first I was going to be perfectly geometric with the part lines that would be visible, but I quickly abandoned that ambition. She was left with a grid pattern that resembles more of a giraffe hide than a honeycomb.
When she looked in the mirror for the first time she saw she had changed. She studied herself, her eyes flicked to mine in the mirror above her, then she searched her image intently. A small satisfied smile eeked out as she touched her hair carefully as though she didn’t want to move it. Every now and then she would toddle back to the mirror and inspect her new look with satisfaction that it didn’t disappear as quickly as it appeared. She is such a girl.
I admit I have discovered a true insecurity: I give a lot of thought to what other black women are going to say about her hair and how I’m managing it. In fact, I fret over what they think about how I’m caring for this hair that has a life of its own and requires its own full time assistant. I hardly leave the house without first sitting her in the high chair and raking a pick through the thick mound of bushy curls, because I don’t want to be found as one who is careless with her hairstyle. If I manage to pull a strand into straight attention, it is now four inches long, and it’s begging for help so it doesn’t matt up or become like the rolling hills in Connecticut. I see the way women put their fingers to their lips and lower their brows to study the nature and nurture of her hair. Slowly their heads wag back and forth indicating I’m lost, maybe even hopeless. They pity me.That’s when I get the advice to do what I am already trying to do.
When I get to Uganda, my girlfriends are going to help me find the right stylist for Kira. And I will beg them not to pull it so tightly that it breaks off like it did just before I met her. She was left with what looked like mange, so the aunties at her baby home shaved it all off! It’s taken us six months now to grow it to a point where it can be styled. I’m afraid that taking care of her hair requires years and years experience, and generations of women who stand nearby to coach the kinks into submission.
The house was wonderfully calm after the mass exodus of all males. Kira and I ate a quiet dinner and then went shopping for junk food. Not for me, not for now, but for her when we traveling together for 30 hours. I usually keep her diet sugar free. But on the plane she’s going to enjoy apple cinnamon cheerios, trix, honeycomb and lollipops! I also tossed in her favorite: cheetos. Then I remembered the orange powdery mess they make so I found a few extra packs of wipes. Traveling with her is going to be fine. I keep telling myself that over and over and at some point I will believe it.
After I put her to bed, I should have attended the long stack of emails. Instead, I put a chick flick in the big tv and celebrated the freedom to watch it without boy comments, eye rolling and gasps of disgust. It was a little bit wonderful. I can’t remember the last time I was in this house alone. Maybe it was the first time. Probably the last.