I regretted not having an extended braid when my mom died

I regretted not having an extended braid when my mom died

July marks one yr since we buried my mom. She departed this world far too quickly in February 2021 – she wasn’t even 62.

A number of months after her passing, I discovered a plastic bag along with her hair in it, together with a word she’d written in 2013, explaining that she left this lock – so tender and matted flat – for when she moved on to the opposite aspect. “I wished to depart one thing nonetheless alive,” she wrote, “so I left my hair.”

We’re Penobscot, Panawahpskewi, folks of the the place the white rocks lengthen out, dwelling and having lived in Maine. Hair in our tradition is necessary. In the fitting arms it may be highly effective, simply as my mom’s hair is in that plastic bag – a reminder of her, a bit of her nonetheless on this earth. However within the fallacious arms, hair might be harmful. I do know it’s been utilized in methods to trigger hurt: my sister as soon as discovered a jar filled with hair, corn and enamel underneath the steps of a home she was staying at on the Mohawk reservation, a curse her then boyfriend had advised her about. We’re not the one tribe to contemplate hair a sacred a part of the physique – most in the USA, Canada and Mexico know the worth of hair, its significance.

Rising up, I used to be at all times vigilant about my hair, or at the least my mom was. Each comb or brush in our home by no means had a single strand on it. After brushing or combing, you had been instructed to take all of the hair and flush it down the bathroom.

Morgan Talty and his mom, 1992. {Photograph}: Morgan Talty

I don’t imagine in curses, however I nonetheless have this pang of guilt and even a sliver of worry each time I see my hair falling at a barber or the hair of a cherished one on the ground, like my spouse’s, whose hair I trim every so often. The final two cuts’ price are wrapped in towels and tucked within the hamper, and one thing in me – one thing deep in me – gained’t let me transfer them, gained’t let me throw them away.

Perhaps I do imagine in spite of everything.

At some level through the pandemic, and with Mother already gone, everybody was giving themselves haircuts. I recall folks posting footage and quick movies of themselves tossing their hair into the outside, claiming it would assist the birds construct their nests.

However each time I noticed a kind of footage or movies, I couldn’t assist however snicker, interested by what my mother would say. I imagined her in some indescribable place past Life, her Kindle in her hand (they’ve Kindles at that place), a smoke within the different (you’re already lifeless so smoking can’t kill you), taking part in Bingo on-line (they usually have actually good web), listening to about these tweets and Instagram posts and saying, “What are they fucking silly? They positive are asking for hassle.”

Many Native males develop their hair out. For Native folks, lengthy hair can signify a robust cultural connection, however I by no means grew mine out lengthy sufficient to make a braid. Once I was youthful, I stayed with my mom all through the college yr, and would normally let my hair develop out into these lengthy, darkish curls till June, once I would take the bus to go to my father for the summer season. I at all times got here again with a haircut – not as a result of anybody pressured me, however as a result of anybody who begins to develop their hair out is aware of it will get annoying and unruly ultimately.

Mother would at all times say, “Gwus, why’d you chop your hair?” and she or he’d give me just a little faucet on the pinnacle. “Develop it out once more. It seems good.” And so then I’d begin over within the fall, letting it develop as soon as extra.

After we lastly buried her in July, 5 months after she had already moved on and been cremated, I wanted a lot that I had had a braid. I really feel so responsible about it. When a cherished one dies, you’re presupposed to snip off your braid and bury it with them, a illustration of the time spent with that particular person but additionally signifying a brand new starting. However I had nothing to chop. Mother left me her hair, and I couldn’t give her something.

Maybe at some point I’ll develop it out – let it get so long as it might – and on the anniversary of her demise in some yr to return, I’ll reduce it off, burn it, and hope it makes its technique to the very place that Mother is ready.

Morgan Talty is the writer of Night time of the Dwelling Rez: Tales (Tin Home). He’s a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation the place he grew up. He lives in Levant, Maine.

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