New Spring Dos

Baby and I both got new hair styles last weekend. I got a simple touch up of a perm that had significant thick new growth, and I took Baby to a children’s hair salon to cut her hair.

Yes, I finally gave in. I simply didn’t want to see anymore patchiness along the sides of Baby’s hair or in the front. So, in the interest of giving her locks a fresh start to even out, I took her in to hare everything cut off.

The salon where I took Baby occupies a converted first floor of a brownstone on Halsey Street in downtown Newark, cheerfully decorated in vibrant primary colors, where two owners braid, cut, ponytail and do just about anything else mothers want for their daughters (and sons). There are two styling stations and a couple of dryers. Too cute. About a third of the floor space is dedicated to retail, where they sell colorful tutus, sportswear, accessories and other adorable finds for little kids.

After settling Baby into one of the two styling chairs and snapping on her apron, I expected the hair dresser to use clippers. I didn’t know if I wanted her hair shaved all off all the way down to her scalp, but I thought clippers would have been able to handle Baby’s four inches. But the hairdresser slid her fingers through Baby’s downy, fine hair and said: “I’m not putting clippers into this baby’s hair. It’s going to totally change the texture.” Her co-owner agreed, and predicted that were clippers to be used in Baby’s hair, her new growth would be a challenge to manage. She kidded that I would rush back in after a few weeks holding Baby and say: “Do something with this hair!”

So we decided to just go with shears. Baby handled the process a lot more calmly than I imagined she would. One of the salon owners daughters offered Baby a Spider Man board book. Baby turned through the pages, but started to become unnerved. Then the little girl fetched a pink teddy bear, which she had created at Build-A-Bear workshop. Smiling, Baby accepted and hugged the little ambassador. Before long, however, Baby started whimpering and trying to climb up on me. I managed to get her to hang in there until at last, her new haircut was done.

I think she looks adorable, and her short curly afro (with the slight ducktail in back) complements her perfectly round head, plump cheeks and long eyelashes. I understand where other women are coming from when they decline to cut their daughter’s hair, or gave me plenty of alternatives to this route. But Hubby and I thought Baby’s hair started to look lopsided, and felt that her scalp needed a breather, a time out.

After this, Hubby and I will probably part ways when it comes to managing Baby’s hair. I don’t know if I’ll ever cut her hair again this drastically. I don’t want strangers mistaking her for a boy, classmates at nursery school or beyond taunting her or Baby herself to feel like a cherished possession was taken away from her. Little girls tend to love their hair, and this is something that I have to constantly remind Hubby about. He thinks hair styling is frivolous. I showed him the Beads, Braids & Beyond Web site, expecting him to marvel at all those creative hairdos, and he recoiled. He said making a little kid sit still for all that styling was torture. I told him to get a grip on reality and understand that even if sitting still is a pain, a LOT of little girls enjoy getting their hair all done up, and like the results. He just huffed and puffed and shook his head, calling it stupid. And I just told him to can it, and that little girls are not middle-aged curmudgeons who don’t care about their hair. They want to look nice, and as long as they’re not obsessed, there is nothing wrong with it. And I told him to stop being so hysterical and calling black hair styles “torture.” Really!

Well, he’s in for a rough time, because Baby is an adorable little girl. She is also young enough that we can reasonably expect her hair to thicken up to a texture much closer to my densely cropped mane than his. It’s not hard to imagine that she will attract lots of offers to get her hair braided, curled, pony tailed and whatnot to play up her pretty face. Besides, after I buy her those colorful tutus, it just follows that she’ll need to rock a cute ‘do to go with it!

Cribs Beautiful

If I had loads of time (and money) at my disposal, I would throw myself into decorating our house. The place is “massive,” to quote a relative who visited; “huge” according to a friend of mine, who herself has “House Beautiful” going on; and a “mansion,” if you believe the youngsters.

We’ve lived here for about six years now, and the place is not as elegant or pulled together as I’d like it to be. We’re still using bookshelves from our singleton apartments in the library, we have no drapes anywhere on the first floor, and the home office is beginning to look drab. We haven’t even touched the TV room and library, which are places where we’ve entertained guests, even overnight. I longingly page through issues of Veranda and House Beautiful magazines, hoping to find a family-friendly look that I can replicate on a modest budget.

So that’s why “Urban Livin’,” another show on Centric TV, caught my attention. I’ve watched two episodes online so far, paying particular attention to the one where Bailey redecorated a spacious library/living room, buying sofas, wing chairs and accent pieces for less than $2,500. I’m taking notes!

For the Latte Cafe, I like the episode about a Haitian woman and white man who wanted to infuse more of the wife’s personality into their home decor. That place needed it, with all of the husband’s family heirlooms that were … a little … drab. But ooh, honey! Ms. Bailey pulled off a miraculous transformation, and made that place multicultural, vibrant and elegant. Check it out here.

Before I go, I want to know why there are no home decorating magazines for black women. I like Ms. Bailey’s show, and regularly check B. Smith’s Web site to see what sorts of home decorating ventures she’s come up with. Is the competition in that segment of the magazine market too fierce? When it comes to buying furniture, are black women not a distinct enough group to support their own glossy periodical or sustain a furniture line? The ad revenue environment for print is brutal right now, so launching and sustaining a profitable magazine like that might be really tough. But I have to say that while I love Veranda and the rest, I use my time to seek out designers who incorporate interesting colors and fabrics into their creations. I don’t see any reason I can’t have animal or exotic plant motifs on an elegant area rug to anchor a room.

Talking About Mixed Kids

Author and photographer Kip Fulbeck has recently published a book of portraits of mixed-race kids, with a foreword by Maya Soetoro-Ng, an educator, author and maternal half-sister of President Barack Obama.  I like the idea of getting kids to talk about how they see themselves. It’s very important that they be comfortable with their identities and that they talk about it. And if they feel like their parents’ different backgrounds play a part in who they are, then they should talk about that, too. I don’t think that as humans or as Americans, etc., we will ever come to any consensus on race and ethnicity. It will always mean different things to different people for various reasons, BUT as long as we keep having healthy conversations about it, we’ll always be heading in the right direction. Here is a video about the book, and a link to the Amazon page, if you want to buy a copy.

That Look in Her Eye

Last Friday I went with Hubby to pick up Baby from the family daycare. This is a pleasant errand that I normally don’t get home in time to do. But that day, I watched Hubby carry her down the sidewalk and to the car, and as he settled her into her car seat next to me, she saw me and her face broke into a smile. She made a happy noise, and she started clapping. I hadn’t seen Baby in a little over a week, because I was in the hospital with a sickle cell crisis. The sight of her reacting like that made my eyes and nose sting with tears, and I cried a little as I helped buckle her into her car seat. It seemed like she missed me, and that possibility made me feel really sad and a little guilty. By getting sick and then staying away from her all that time, had I messed up and neglected my job as a mother?

When we got home, Baby seemed anxious to jump on me, hug and snuggle up a bit, which I was game to do, as well. But I had just gotten out of the hospital and was still sore from several procedures. So at one point when she threw her 18-month-old energy at me, I winced in pain and gently pulled her back a little. She stopped and looked at me, almost like she recognized that something was up. I wonder how much Baby realizes about my condition and what effect it will have on her life. During the evening, I thought Baby looked at me differently more than once, like when I was slow in picking her up, half-heartedly chasing her up the stairs (which would normally have her squealing in delight) or not bounding down the stairs, which she also loves to see. Maybe she was just taking in the sight of me at home again. I hope she was not wondering why I wasn’t operating at full throttle. Obviously, she doesn’t understand how sickle cell works, but so far she knows that on two occasions I have left her for a few days, and when I came back, I didn’t lift, swing or toss her around like I am used to doing. This time, however, I did manage to play with her a bit, and go through the whole bedtime routine, from bath through story time and the final kiss goodnight. Hubby had to gently lower her into her crib, because I just didn’t have the strength to do that.

Even if Baby doesn’t have those questions now, I know that I will have more crises and one day she’s going to ask me about my health. One night, she might ask Hubby why I’m screaming (in pain) and where he is taking me. One day she might wonder why I didn’t come home from work, or why I’m delayed getting home from a trip out of town. We will have to talk about my disease one day, and when we do, I’ll tell her everything that I can, except for the part where I thank God that she escaped my fate. If she’s as sharp then as I think she is now, it’s something that will be quietly understood between us.