Sunday, January 20, 2013


There has never been any love lost between me and my hair. I can't ever remember having long hair, even when I was a child. It was always fairly short then, and now, it's really short, never below my ears.

Not so with our son, Jay, though. He was a true child of the 80s and had long hair, at least in the back. You may remember the mullet cut, short on the sides and long in the back. That was Jay! I loved it, and every time he went to the barber to get it trimmed, I'd say as he left the house, "Don't let him cut it too short!"

"Don't worry, Mom. I won't."

He really had a "nice head of hair," as we say in the South. Some mothers probably wouldn't have liked it, but I did. However, as beautiful as it was on the outside, there was something very different underneath.

If he lifted up his long hair to show you what was strange, you'd see that the hair under his long locks was just as kinky as it could be. For a long time, I attributed this to the fact that at one time he had had a perm. I didn't like that, but he just came home one day with his hair curled. So I kept saying that the curls were left over from the perm. But how long can one last? Finally, I had to admit that his curls were natural, but where did they come from?

My husband had the answer: Somewhere back in my history, there were blacks. I didn't believe him, but that's what he told me. He said that a certain photo of my great-grandmother proved that. He swore that she was black. Not so, according to family stories. She was an Indian.

Fast forward to 1994. I had my students write their autobiographies, and I wrote mine right along with them. All of us had great family photos in our books. Of course, Grandma Wiggins, my Indian grandmother, was right there.

The day came when we all had our autobiographies ready, and everyone was reading everyone else's, really just looking at photos. A sweet little black girl on the front row was reading mine. She called me over to her and pointed to Grandma's picture.

"Who 'dis, Miz Young?"

"That's my great-grandmother," I replied.

"She black?" my student asked.

"No, she's an Indian."

My dear little student looked me, rolled her beautiful brown eyes, and responded,"Unh hunh," being interpreted, "Who are you trying to fool?"

Out of the mouths of babes. Who knows . . . maybe somewhere down the line we'll have a beautiful dark-skinned, brown-eyed, curly haired child instead of the fair-complexioned, blue-eyed, straight brown-haired folks that populate our family now.

But how about Jay's hair? Did I continue to love it? Of course, I did. It was on my boy, and he always looked handsome to me . . . right up to the day he died at age 24. He still had that mullet cut, and everyone loved it. As his friends passed by his casket on July 5, 1992, almost to a person, they reached in and touched his hair in an effort to get it just right, just the way Jay would have wanted it.

In my mind's eye, Jay is still 24, with a beautiful head of hair, curls underneath and all.