There is a word in Brazil for touching a loved one’s hair affectionately – cafuné – it is in the Brazilian Portuguese lexicon but it is a word that comes from Angola. And there is no African American, I don’t care how their hair looks, who is not emotionally connected to their hair. Maybe you can say anyone, not just African Americans, but certainly it is amplified in this culture.
Another mother at Tin’s school had taken her daughter’s bountiful hair and put it into twists and I loved the style. She said she would come over and show me how to do it and she did. Today, during this fast paced, nutty, holiday season, she came over on Sunday afternoon and together we twisted Tin’s hair while he patiently watched Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer for the tenth time this week.
I watched her nimble fingers with awe and told her that she had delicate hands, and she said no, she had experienced hands. And so I worked to make mine as nimble. She said that I could take him to someone who could do his hair for him, but the more I worked my hands, the more I thought that I want to be the one to touch his hair, to shape it, and to have it be a conduit from me to him.
The stylist who does my hair said that mothers of my generation lost the talent for doing hair, they literally abandoned it as evidenced by all the ponytails you see these days. There was a time when a white mother would french braid or twist her daughter’s hair, and an African American would braid designs into their child’s hair. Now little boys get their head shaved and girls end up with ponytails or puffs.
And what a gift of love to have my friend come share this experience with me and Tin. What a true gift of love indeed! Maybe I’m being overly sentimental but wouldn’t you opt to do your own child’s hair instead of sending him to someone?