Monday, February 28, 2005

Steven's Hair

Taking care of Steven’s hair is a completely new experience for me.

I am used to Caucasian hair. Every six weeks or so, I set my guys on a stool in the bathroom and give them haircuts. First a pile of thinning blond falls to the floor. A thick red layer follows, and then brown.
My girls and I have long hair as per First Corinthians 11. I have brushed and braided and ponytailed hundreds of times—two blond-red heads and one brown. My own hair is twisted into a bun and hairpinned in place every morning.

We are used to the inconveniences of long hair. We clean it out of the bathtub and cut it out of the beater bar on the vacuum cleaner.

Steven, our new 10-year-old son from Kenya, thinks long hairs are gross. This is a child who lived on the streets and dug in garbage for food, and he gingerly picks up a stray 2-foot-long hair by the bathroom sink and says, "Ewwww" with a look of horror and disgust on his face.

They kept his head shaved in Kenya because of lice, but I want him to have hair. So I am charting these new waters of caring for African hair. Each strand is amazingly tight and kinky, and it tends to gather into little bunches. It also dries out so easily that he has to limit how often he shampoos.

The wonderful ladies at Sally Beauty Supply in Eugene showed me how to care for him. Every day, we rub his hair with something about the texture of Vaseline. The stuff would turn my hair into greasy rat tails, but it makes Steven’s look healthy and clean. Then we brush with what looks like a wooden scrub brush, and it fluffs his hair into a soft, even carpet. I had figured a good brushing should last a few days, but we can brush in the morning and it’s back into clumps by the time he comes home from school.

African hair is a world unto itself, with its moisturizers and corn rows and beads. I find myself scrutinizing pictures of black athletes in the newspaper—how do they get their hair to look that way? Jordan Kent’s hair looks nice and neat at the end of a game—how does he do that?

When Matt was a baby and reached his first birthday, I had this huge sense of relief that he actually survived babyhood under my care. When Steven leaves for school with his hair looking neat and healthy, I feel a similar relief.

Quote of the day—
"It’s pathetic how perfect their life is. They fall in love, they get married, they have a baby on Valentine’s Day."
--Hillary Yoder, age 14, speaking of Phil and Rosie Leichty and their new son Blaine. Rosie is Hillary’s dad’s sister’s husband’s sister and Phil is Hillary’s mom’s dad’s cousin’s son. (I am Mennonite; I track relations)


  1. Thank you sister for that wonderful and insightful account of life. I think that your 'shoe' must be truly full and busy!

    How did you manage to type out that who's who under the quote and not get it confused? I am Mennonite but I can't do that! Can't wait for the next post!

  2. I love this blog! I love your book "Ordinary Days". It is by far one of my favorites.
    I love the way the internet works.....I was searching for SMBI CD's online, which led me somehow to a "Tapestry" page, which interested me. From there I found the "AHQT" page, read and discovered that the AHQT was from the same church as you. From there I went to the "By-Log" which eventually led me to discover your page. How fun! Keep the posts coming! I am so pleased to be able to read your writing even though I don't get the "Register Guard". God Bless -

  3. Already I love anything you write. We are going to Ghana in 3 weeks, for 2 weeks, and someone told us not to take combs along with our other goodies to hand out because the Africans have special combs for their special hair. You confirmed that fact. Jenny's armpit hair remark reminded me of our 8-year-old son's comment when his ten-year-old brother started using deodorant: "Why does Rolin get all the fun stuff?" I didn't know what a blog was before. Thanks to you, I'm having fun learning.

  4. I got the link to your blog off of Byran's, and have been enjoying reading every entry. I see I'm not alone in my opinion, either.:) Keep it up.

    -Shelley G.

  5. Work with nature, don't fight it. Relax. It's OK for Steven to look like an African. Once I learned this principle with my challenging garden spot I was able to enjoy it. Not only that, but also rise to new heights of creativity. God Bless.

    Lavender Lou