February 2, 2020
I stayed up late.
The current situation with my mom reminds me of mothering my babies. You stay up late because it’s the only time you get to yourself. You know you’ll regret it because the morning comes early, but you do it anyways.
It’s 11:14 a.m., and mom is sitting in her wheelchair at the far end of the barber shop in a makeshift booth. The shop music upbeat and catchy.
“The Shareef don’t like it.”
Dun . . . dun-dun.
“Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah.”
The music cuts through her conversation with the slim, smiley, mocha-skinned hair stylist. She offered my mom coffee earlier, but I whispered a quiet rebuke, cutting off mom’s impending yes.
“Liquids are limited. Remember? Your heart.”
I can’t see her anymore in my seat behind the half wall, but her voice drifts toward the front lobby. I can tell the woman is struggling to understand my mother.
I hear her say things like:
“What do you mean?”
“I didn’t catch that?”
She’s comprehending snippets, but I’m not quite sure she’s getting any of the context.
Mom says, “Oh, that feel so good!”
I imagine her fingers massaging my mom’s scalp. The conversation falls into silence until I hear:
“The last lady cut my hair, I say, ‘I have bald-headed, so you only charge me half price. That so funny!”
Mom laughs loudly, and I hear the lady chortle. She’s humoring my mom, meaning well, but like many people, the politeness is just on the surface. A sheer cloth that blankets underlying indifference.
It’s these times that I value my mom’s innocence. She is blissfully oblivious, and I find that comforting. I don’t blame the woman. It’s not her job to really care. She’s just trying to get through her day. I look over to see a young girl with a high ponytail, 80’s scrunchie crowning the top of her head. At ease in conversation with her mother, who is about the same height.
I wonder what that’s like. To have a relaxed conversation with your mom as a preteen. The closest I had was my sister, and when she left, I felt lost at 13. My first big breakup, my mom had no sympathy.
I tip-toed into her room that afternoon. The shades were drawn, the room dark. Shards of light edging their way through the cracks in the blinds. She looked hazy and out-of-focus through my tears.
“Why you crying?” She looked up at me.
“We b-b-broke up.” The words erupted in a sob. Fresh tears staining my face.
“You stop crying over boy. You find another.”
She rolled over. I shrunk back, slinking out of the room.
I remember crying myself to sleep later that night, not sure what to do with all that teenage angst. I look up as the hairdresser wheels my mom towards me.
“Okay, all done! You be good now!” She smiles again at my mother.
I help mom with her jacket. The man seated next to the door jumps up.
“Let me get that for you!”
We stroll outside. The air is crisp but not too cold. The sun, bright and warm. In the car, she looks over.
“Thank you, baby. She do a real good job.”
I see her eyes, her smile, her freshly clipped hair. I run my hand over the back of her head.
“Love you, mom.”
“I love you, too.”
Our closeness palpable. And I think . . . we may not have had it then, but we have this now.