Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

L Is For Leave

You’re old enough to learn to do your own hair, the woman tugged the comb through my wet hair. Sssshhh! I winced through my teeth and pulled away. Don’t be such a big baby! That didn’t hurt you! she tugged again. Your hair snarls so easily. It doesn’t snarl when you braid it, I struggled to keep my voice level as she encountered an especially tangled area near my scalp. Huh, she finally pronounced. No more snarls. I’ll set it but you’ll have to stay in this afternoon. Why can’t I cut it? mutely, I queried my Friend as, inside, I heard all the voices that shouted, Comb your hair! each Sunday when the tight French plaits were released and my hair allowed to flow freely. If I can’t cut it, then why can’t I wear braids? I silently asked Him. They stick out like Pippi Longstocking’s! And they stay neat all week! The image of tucking and smoothing wisps of hair flashed across the screen of my mind.

I sat in the window seat in the room I shared longing to loosen the tight curlers but kept my hands clasped firmly on Little Women instead. The sound of bike riding, jump roping, running and shouting children called to me through the open window. The mild weather beckoned. I want to play too, I told my Friend. May I go out? I made my face as sad as I could hoping the woman would ease her restriction. Little ladies do not go out with curlers in their hair, she responded. I slowly and heavily walked back to the steps. Whose making all that noise! the man was watching a baseball game. Me! I squeaked. Why aren’t you out playing? I’m not allowed to go out with curlers in my hair. All I can do is watch television… Tchah, the man scoffed. Or read a book, I continued. The man clicked the remote to a golf match. You can go out if you put on a scarf, without looking around. Don’t leave the garden!

What are you doing outside?! the woman called from the back porch as I rode the blue bicycle around the paved area in the back garden. Come in here! All of you girls! Come in at once! I told you, she wagged her forefinger at me, Little ladies do not leave the house with curlers in their hair! But he said I could, if I wore a scarf and didn’t leave the garden, my voice was an indignant squeak. The pink colour drained from the woman’s face. Her mouth was a straight line. She walked quickly from the kitchen.

Why did you tell her she could go outside?! the woman’s voice demanded with a steeliness I had never heard before. Claire, Alex, and I crept into the dining room and sat in silence around the table. Why do you always countermand me?! Can’t you see I’m trying to watch a game! We knew the man had not looked away from the television. Stop bothering me! The game is about to start again! I will not stop bothering you! the woman retorted sharply. I told Eve she must stay home and help me get the children ready for church. You gave her permission to go over to Veronica’s! She took a loud breath, her voice raised and octave, I asked the boys to rake the lawn! You told them to play ball in the park! They were making too much noise! the man interjected. Can’t you just let me watch my game?! Claire, Alex and I stared at each other in silence. And now! the woman’s voice crescendoed, you tell her she can go out with curlers in her hair! The sound of the baseball game came from the living room. The woman’s tread sounded on the stairs.

The woman’s room smelled of the lavender soap she kept inside her suitcases and bureau drawers. She folded clothing into an open case, her mouth compressed into a tight, straight line. I’m sorry, I told her from the foot of her bed, as she pressed her brown pumps along the side of the case. I promise, I’ll never leave the house with curlers again. I’m not leaving because of you, she said, her mouth still a tight, straight line. I’m leaving because daddy never supports me. I wiped at a tear making it’s way down my cheek. She looked into my face, Little soldiers don’t cry. You want to be a little soldier for Jesus, don’t you? Yes, my voice was a small, breathless squeak. Then you mustn’t cry. She folded the dress she always wore to vote, placed it in the case and closed the lid. A yellow cab arrived. The woman got drove away in it.

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