She perched silently above the azure-blue water, awaiting her chosen fate. Judy grabbed the sharp, shiny scissors, and pointed at Melanie: “Are you ready?” She nodded. “Ok, snip, Snip, SNIP.” Melanie cringed as she watched her curly thick semi-straightened hair dissolve like cotton candy into the water below.
“Oh, no!” she gasped, holding back tears. At 14, Melanie felt like a boy. She touched her newly cropped Afro and began to fret about her parents going ballistic over her drastic hair cut. After all, she left for her Hawaiian Christmas vacation with shoulder-length, shiny, straight black hair with a part down the middle — covered by a white linen cap with bright red plastic cherries on the side!
She anxiously paced the floor, telling her friends that she felt her parents wanted her hair to be straight, and to look just right, to fit in like the other young girls at her private school – to “be” just right!
“Wrong – it’s all wrong,” she exclaimed. “I must be myself. I love my own hair: no chemicals, no burning, no ouch, and no more Cousin Lucy fixing it. I’ve wanted it this way for a long time.”
Late the night before her departure for home, Melanie sank her head into the pillow and prayed. “Oh dear God, help me. Show me what to do, what to say to my parents.”
Curling up in her bed like the lonely hermit crab she collected on the beach, Melanie sighed. “I must be strong when I talk to my parents – at least appear to be strong, on the outside, like the hermit crab.
When the plane parked at the gate, Melanie’s heart fluttered like a thousand butterfly wings. Emerging from the plane, she felt like she was moving in slow motion. Her feet stuck to the ground.
Melanie’s parents were at the gate, bobbing up and down, waving, and happy to greet their daughter.
She held her breath for a moment and, with a perky smile, she gave them kisses and hugs. Then – whoosh – off with the hat!
“What in the *#%x+ happened to your hair?” her father screamed, so loudly that passengers in the other terminal could hear him as if on loud speakers!
Shriveled up like the hermit crab, Melanie said: “I cut it off. I like it this way. It’s natural!”
Mother – stunned and speechless at her husband’s unusual behavior, and her daughter’s assertiveness – -smiled a big grin. Melanie’s father barked: “Put your hat back on. We’re going home and calling cousin Lucy right away.”
Silent and sunken in the back seat of the car, she feverishly thought: “How can I convince my parents to keep my hair the way I want? My hair is natural and easy to manage this way.”
“They are business people, and they won’t have to pay cousin Lucy to straighten it anymore. That won’t work: the “real” truth.” She sighed. “I want my hair this way because it’s me – my own hair.”
Later that day, Melanie sat at the desk in her bedroom and took out her best stationery. She wrote a letter to her parents – in her best penmanship. Shaking at first as she scribbled, then becoming straight and secure – she wrote: “Dear Mom and Dad. I know you are mad at me. Please let me keep my hair this way. It is natural and easy to take care of. Love, your daughter, Melanie.”
She folded the letter perfectly and placed it like a crown on her father’s pillow – and dashed down the stairs. Biting her nails more than usual, she stayed up late that night, anxious, and with a stomach ache, expecting them to come in and give the unwelcomed verdict!
Not one word that night, or the next morning, or the day after – or ever again!
Her parents silently agreed to let her grow her naturally curly hair as big as she wanted! To embrace her unique heritage with bright, colorful ethnic clothing, with exotic and Middle Eastern and African fabrics, shoes, music, dance. They embraced her for the loving and special child of theirs!
And she was happy, and so were her parents – her angels on Earth.
REFLECTIONS ON ADOPTION
If your child is from a different culture/race/heritage from you, it is imperative to embrace the child’s natural heritage. Seek to nurture their gifts and unique talents, and to provide music, dance, and clothing that makes them comfortable with themselves and with the world around them.
Because my parents were at first upset and shocked, they didn’t know how I felt. When I affirmed my self – stood up and declared my preference – they listened and accepted my request wholeheartedly. They helped me through my rite of passage to triumph, and become a well-rounded adult.
Parents and those touched by adoption – Remember to be Angels to these children whom you are blessed to be in their presence. Nurture them, affirm them, celebrate their uniqueness.
Please visit my website [http://www.melanielococo.com] for more reflections, stories, and upcoming events and programs.
All the best to you and your family!