I looked at myself in the mirror. I noticed the lines of my face and
the curve of my neck. I looked down at my hands remembering the moment
I first realized that they looked like hers. Long, thin, delicate
hands perfect for playing the piano or braiding cornrows. All my life
I had not noticed until the day I sat at her bedside holding her hand
in mine. She had told me that she was not afraid to die. We sat in
silence for a long time, sometimes sharing a stare and a smile. I
don't know how long I sat there, looking at her, realizing for the
first time who I looked so much like. As I stood in front of the
mirror, I remembered that day as I prepared for her funeral. Sarah
Smith, my grandmother's going home day. My father asked me to do her
eulogy. I had thought and thought of what to say. The words didn't
come until the morning of her funeral. That morning I went to the lake
where me, my brothers, and my sister would go swimming in the summer
on weekend visits to my grandmother's. As I soaked in the sun and
watched its rays dance on the waters a memory came.
As a child there were only two people that I would let touch my hair,
my mother and my grandmother. Cornrowing my hair was an event when my
grandmother did it. She would take me out on the stoop, bringing a
chair for herself, and I would sit in front of her with my head
between her knees. Moving my head in reaction to the slightest
direction from her hands became natural. Other women and children
would come and sit while she picked out my hair and greased my scalp.
I would listen to the women talk. I don't remember anything that was
said but I do remember the comfort of the stoop and my grandmother's
fingers doing magic in my hair.
Sitting on the dock I realized that I had never known my grandmother's
life story. I don't know the struggles she must have had as a black
woman in the South raising two...