A Curl So Black and Soft

Once upon a time

my mother was a little girl;

Once upon a time.

My mother lost her mother when she was five years old.

Her father was a quiet  Englishman

who loved her very much.

My mother’s mother died when she was five years old

and no one told her for months.

She cried and cried and cried,

“Where is Mother?”

And no one answered.

I have heard this story countless times from the family.

My mother finally threw a fit while her father was washing her

beautiful black hair.

He said,

“Your mother went to sleep and she will never wake up.”

And that,

was that.

I have heard family members say to my mother,

“I think it was her pregnancy with you that did it,

something just went wrong.”

I have heard this said in front of my mother too many times to count.

My Grandmother lost a child, Eleanor Mary, before giving birth to my mother.

My mother was a Gift to her mother.

When it came time to move my mother to the first nursing home

after her 24 day medical detox at Denver General,

I found in her things

small, yellowed envelopes with delicate hand writing on each one;

“Mary Kay’s first haircut

May 1st, 1939”

I found envelope after envelope with this

beautiful handwriting on them

I opened one recently, before my mother died.

I opened it very carefully.

Inside is a curl tied with ribbon,

a curl so black and soft.

I can see, in my mind’s eye, my Grandmother

Gently snipping the curls, carefully tying the ribbon

and sitting at the desk that stood in my mother’s

room at the nursing home,

and writing with Love on each envelope.

My mother was deeply loved by her mother.

My mother was her gift;

and her mother was taken away.

On the day my mother died,

After Phil reminded me to be quiet,

I chose my words carefully.

I told her;

“I found the envelopes Mommy. The envelopes with your curls

and the ribbons and your mother’s handwriting so delicate.

She loved you Mommy. Your mother loved you  deeply.”

Later in the day I said,

“Mommy, your mother will be there to meet you.

Mommy, she has been waiting all these years to hold you again.”

The curls, the curls of black hair, handwriting on envelope after envelope,

remind me that my mother, perhaps,

In that in between space between here

and there

was not alone.

My mother was loved.

She was loved by my father and by her mother;

Both taken before she was ready.

I hope that they were there, where ever there is, to take her hand.

My mother was loved deeply.

I will sleep tonight holding this tight.

Peace to you on this fine Christmas Eve,  Jen

~ by Step On a Crack on December 24, 2011.

10 Responses to “A Curl So Black and Soft”

  1. I hope it makes sense when I say your writing, particularly today’s, is like fine art taken from the earth. Our stories are such a part of us. I try to remind myself that just because I don’t know someone’s “back story”, doesn’t mean they don’t have one. That I need to be kind because there is a story. Just as your mother was a gift to her own mother, you have been a gift to yours…and you acknowledged her stories. May your transition from this year to the next be a peaceful and fulfilling one.


  2. You are so beautiful Jen. Strong, true, wise, honest and a fabulous writer. How excellent! Awesome yet gentle recollection of your mom’s attachment to her mother. She never found a love like her mom except in your dad … i think she couldn’t feel it with others because the trauma of losing her First Love was so cruelly plunked in the tub like a splash as she was having her beautiful hair washed.

    I’m anxious to read about the next chapter: Kay with dad.

    So sorry your mom is gone. She was loved deeply by you, Andrea and Phil, too.

    Love mel


  3. Oh, Jen, my heart is breaking.

    All that love lost–all that devotion spoiled–by cruel inconsideration in others.
    But, you, Dear one, are the embodiment of the love your grandmother was unable to stay and show your mother. What a gift you were to her.

    And how nobly you have born her sorrows.

    You completed it. Your mother was loved.


  4. Jen, just beautiful, your words and sentiment. Do know you are deeply loved and there is One who cares for you more completely than we can know. It may offer little in these days of grief but I pray you can find comfort and peace in knowing the birth of our Savior. Merry Christmas! I look forward to a new year with you.


  5. Such a kind thing you gave your mother on her dying day. You are one amazing woman. Thank you for telling us about yourself and letting us be with you through a part of this. God loves you so much.


  6. That’s a horribly, horribly sad story. But it makes your mother’s story a whole lot more comprehensible.

    The envelopes with the curls is just so damn poignant. *sigh* I’m glad your mother and her mother are reunited. Yeah, I have to believe that. Believing anything else would make me want to stop functioning on this planet. I have to believe they are together, and all is well.

    Thank you for sharing this story, Jen. Merry Christmas.
    Mrs D


  7. Dearest Jen – Your writing is incredible, as always. poignant and beautiful. But beyond that, you reveal not only wit and wisdom, but a rare appreciation and wonderment and a tenderness that hasn’t been calloused by pain. You encourage and inspire, you fierce wounded Warrior Woman! You are an unexpected gifts of this year! I can’t count the number of times you’ve made me cry or laugh, or want to punch someone (OK, that last one is a bit off – but that’s my fault, not yours).
    I hope your Christmas was merry and that your new year will be one of comfort and joy.
    Love and Peace to you,


    • Dear Debbie,

      YOU! See how you are?!

      You are so generous of time and spirit. You are an angel I swear.

      Thank you thank you for your kindness and support

      Love and Peace to you,



  8. Ahh, the relief in knowing those we love with difficulty were loved by others as well. It lets us know we are not crazy for loving what we assumed unloveable.


  9. […] A Curl So Black and Soft […]


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