Rain music taps on the dining room window. The soothing percussion transports me to mom’s olive green Cougar, on the way to an eighth grade school day. I can hear the sound of the wipers. I can smell mom’s Wrigley’s spearmint gum. I can taste my anxiety.
Mom drove Sue and me to school if it rained. It wasn’t that I minded getting wet. I have always loved the smell and the sound of rain, and the way it feels on bare feet. I have always loved the dreariness of rain. But, in those tender days, the beauty of the rain was overshadowed by one of my biggest fears, a fear that only curly-haired girls know – frizz!
Hair frizz would send me running to the girl’s bathroom mirror before homeroom, and then again after algebra and before lunch. It had the power to transform my worthiness, to completely change how I was perceived. Or, at least I thought it did. I remember waking up before the sun, so that I could use the Remington hot-comb to make my hair straight and sleek, obliterating any sign of its natural inclination to kink.
I regret how ugly I was in my imagination. My old school pictures tell a different story now, but the stories I convincingly told myself then made me hide. They made me try to blend in. They made me shrink into myself. And, they gave me a gift. They gave me a lifetime’s worth of empathy for the unkind voices other people dance with.
The tapping rain on the window sooths me now, washing away stray lingering unkindness. I am back in this room, sitting on the sofa, writing this for you while I wait for my freshly washed hair to dry, on its own, curly and free.