Combing Tangles

My Dearest Child,

The roar of the cough had revved for more than a week.

Sleep had become a tale no longer told.

I turned on the highest heat in the shower to fill the room with steam.

I walked you in ever so gently and placed the lavender towel across your shivering body and sat you on the shower chair.

I stood behind you so to block the water from scalding your skin.

I took your massive braid, nearly three feet long, and began the delicate process of returning it from Rastafarian deadlock to Disney Princess locks.

As you breathed in the stream, I had to be mindful of the chemical smell that any detangler might have and realized I did not have the resources I had depended upon in the past to make smooth that which had become gnarled.

The more I unraveled, the less hope for success I felt, and the thought came into my mind that I might not be able to rescue and save your beautiful hair.

I remembered my own matted hair through childhood illness and the only solution being a pair of scissors by my gruff, stoic grandmother’s hands.

I mentioned only once how much easier it would be if your hair were short again, but I felt remorseful as soon as I did. Some thoughts should only be silently witnessed not actively engaged. Too many of our words fly through us perpetuated by generations past, and bypass the customs check of consciousness that would elevate them to a status of evolutionary progress.

If I could rewind that moment, I would choose the kindness of confidence and say, “These tangles are a small price to pay for the joy having long hair brings to you. No challenge is insurmountable. Don’t worry. I’ve got this! Everything is going to be ok.”

My own body was beginning to tremble from weakness. I was not used to standing this long or in steam without needing the shower chair myself. I leaned into the cold tiles of the wall and persisted through the reeds of your glamour, the mythical strength of youth. I was determined that your story be one of gentle love and not resentful impatience.

Each strand I successfully broke free felt like an accomplishment on par with any in my life I have ever worked and sacrificed for. And with each new section of hair combed smooth, my confidence that all others would be achieved as well, grew, and gave me the much needed strength to continue.

Unless and until you have ever tackled tangles like these, you can’t know the struggle and the sagacity of meaning behind something so seemingly shallow. The depth is not the endeavor of what is being saved but rather the endeavor to save that which holds meaning and significance to another, even if it holds none for you.

The sensation that came over me most was one of soft appreciation, gratitude and a tremendous supply of nurturing love.

As mothers, we never know when the last nursing session will be, the last time we spoon feed, the last diaper changed. One day, the mother is no longer needed for such things. It’s a relief at the time because mothers are notoriously exhausted. It’s also deafening to hear the silence of no request.

To no longer be needed as once you were is freedom and enslavement all at once.

When we are free from caring for another, we are enslaved back into the ego of self pursuit and it’s shackles are many. Nothing for the self feels as deeply connected to oneness as when temporarily giving everything completely for the cause, the continuation of life, the tilling of the seeds of kindness to be perpetuated in humanity through a small and tender life form.

Being a mother, the total care-taking of a tiny new born, around the clock, year after year, until that being could largely care for herself, was for me, a brief moment of holding the highest position in the divine order of life in the universe.

And so, this small note, a restful weight of time, of lovingly, patiently combing tangles, was a gift; a post card from the new born stage I will never have the energy to relive again but that I will be ever more changed because I experienced it when I could.

For already, you had began to mother to me, pushing me on difficult days in my wheelchair, as I had pushed my Papa when his health began to decline.

A breathing Möbius strip: that first time, when the child becomes the parent to the parent. One, continuous flow of life into life. From my Papa pushing me in a stroller to me pushing him in a wheelchair, to me pushing you in a stroller, to you pushing me in a wheelchair, the Möbius strip of humanity.

We grow in humility as we accept charity; but so too, we grow in grace when we are still permitted to be charitable ourselves.

It was an honor, to keep standing, to continue being gentle, to make sure you were not too cold, not too warm, that the steam was still helping, that I wasn’t pulling too hard, and —

…to keep wearing my patience as you wore the lavender towel: gently around the shoulders, balancing it with every breath, and never letting it slip too far from grasp.

I kept it to myself that my own mother would never have made such a sacrifice for me, as she delighted in her own exasperation too much.

I kept it to myself that I hoped I was teaching through modeling that my daughter might someday offer her own daughter or herself, the same loving, patience, compassion, and kindness.

It is misguided to believe that when we are kind to another being, we are raising them to be entitled. When we offer kindness, we breed kindness.

I kept every nagging thought to myself. Instead of speaking incessantly about how tangled the hair had become, what a mess it was, how I hoped it would never happen again and what could we do to prevent another such occasion,

I focused on its strength to endure the process of losing its grip, of returning to freedom, of its beauty to flow free once again as if it had never been confined and nearly lost its battle.

And after 40 minutes or maybe an hour, I made smooth that rope of ragged fatigue.

There was no time to luxuriate in watching the comb glide effortlessly through the three feet of wavy, flaxen silk; for the bigger picture, the lungs and cough and steam, had all enjoyed their fill.

I had time only but to braid it once again, strong like a bridge through the rainforest that fairies might use to cross from past to present and back again.

You were clean and warm and dry and I held you in my arms and breathed you in.

There are moments in life we tuck away for safe keeping, this is one of those moments.

When you invent your time machine, my child, which I am certain you already have in some multiverse, I look forward to revisiting the moments when you felt most loved and gently cared for and when I felt I was sewing healing balms of loving patience into the universal mother daughter fabric of time.

Thank you for the gift of being your mother.

You are my greatest blessing.

I love you.



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