On my sister’s dreadlocks

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Once, when we were little and playing dolls in the basement, my sister softened her voice to the quiet tone reserved for confessionals and told me that she had asked mom if she (my sister) could get her hair sectioned into the tiny braids that are then decorated in pony beads, like the hair of the tennis-playing Williams’ sisters.

“Well,” I asked, also quietly, “what did mom say?”

Ceebs looked down, “She said ‘no’.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking that was the end of it.

“But!” she said, “I think I’m going to ask again…for my birthday.”

Because we all know that birthday wishes can outweigh the limits genetically imposed on hair by Mother Nature.

***

Once, a few years ago, I helped my sister knot her hair into dreadlocks. She had been dreaming of them for a while, so we watched a couple of movies to help pass the time while I sectioned and teased until her head was full of the dark brown ropes of locked hair.

It was as she had always wanted.

And, for a while, all was happy.

She had them twisted into a delicate basket of braids for my brother’s wedding. When I went to her lacrosse games, my brother and I would yell, “RELEASE THE DREADS!” from the sidelines until she would pull them out of her black hair band and they would whip and wave, wild and free, flying up and down the frigid fall field.

***

She brushed them out one day, my sister and my cousin working together, sitting on the front porch step bordered with drooping moon lilies in the late-summer sun. They gathered a bag full of shed-hair, and my sister had straight hair once again.

I wondered aloud why she wanted them gone, when she was so happy with them in. She told me, in a low voice again, that it was because coworkers had been asking her how she expected to find a fine, upstanding young man if she projected such a wild and free image.

And so, she brushed them out.

***

We walked a Camino together, my sister and I. We went to school and graduated and switched jobs and danced at a million weddings–always living, always loving.

Last winter, or early spring (it’s hard to tell in Michigan), my sister said to me, softly, with the voice used in a confessional: I’m thinking about getting dreadlocks again.

And so, she did. She trotted to a local salon and a lady there crocheted her head into a new work of art–new ropes of knotted hair.

There has been no more talk of her taking them out.

***

Sometimes as I’m leaving for work in the morning, Ceebs begins studying. The other day she called out to me, “Hey–do you want to know what I can say?”

And I said that I did and so she recited to me a new phrase she knows in Arabic. She has signed up for an Arabic class, you see; sometimes she speaks her little phrases with her patients.

The other day she came home and I was home a little late, so we overlapped. She’s still playing and coaching and watching soccer–her love.

Monthly, on one of her few evenings off of work, she hosts her burger club–assorted friends and family in obscure restaurants, new chains, old hole-in-the-wall bars–testing and tasting the best burgers the area has to offer.

***

In the pursuit of more life/ more life/ more life, it always encourages me to see the ones who relentlessly pursue upward movement and improvement over the alleged judgments of others.

Maybe some guy somewhere wouldn’t be able to handle the fantastically knotted hair of an Arabic-speaking, soccer-playing, burger-loving force of nature? How unfortunate……for him.

***

This weekend we might be gathering to talk about a Halloween-themed comedy show, my sister of the golden comedic timing and I. Maybe we will gather around my parent’s worn kitchen table, bought with their wedding money, and plan for a night when all of our friends can gather and laugh and grow with us.

Maybe, this weekend, I will make her black bean burgers, which she shares with me lovingly, even though bacon is her love-language and not mine. Maybe we will drink cider and share stories and she will store this laughter and memory in her dreadlocks, as they continue to grow–a testament to a woman unafraid of dreams heartily pursued.

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