“But Mama I—“
“But nothin’. I said covah yo’ head.”
There was no arguin’ with my Mama…uh uh, there was none of that. When she told ya to do somethin’, it had better been done. Ya just had to, ‘cuz if ya didn’t she would stare ya down with those deep brown eyes, right hand perched on her broad hip, and a switch in the left. I didn’t wanna mess with that. I hated coverin’ my head. With hair thick like bush, who would want some hot head coverin’ on their head? Not me. But no matter where I was going, Mama would always remember to yell from where she was, “covah yo’ head chile.” So I did.
My sister and I didn’t have the same daddy. The story goes that Mama loved a white man and he loved her back, but his parents hated them together. When they found out she was pregnant, they ran her straight outta the county. In that new county she gave birth to my sister, Saffronia. Soon after, she married my daddy and had me, Serenity. Saffronia and I were sisters, but our differences were noticeable. She was yellow and I, brown. Her hair was soft and curly and mine, coarse and nappy. Nobody figured we were sisters. When we told them, they would all have the same reaction.
“Ha! There’s no way on God’s green earth ya’ll two could be sisters.”
They would stroke Saffronia’s hair and tell her how pretty she was, while I just stood by and watched. My head would always be covered ‘cuz if anybody tried to run a finger through it “they would surely lose it.” Mama would always say. Whenever it was time to have my hair combed, I would take off screamin’ and runnin’ in all different directions—it was just that painful. All that tuggin’ and pullin’ and plaitin’. It was like tryna pull a plow through dry, weeded up soil.
“Chile, keep still.” Mama would yell.
“But Mama my head hurts. Why can’t I just wear my hair out like Saffy does? I don’t wanna have my hair combed.”
“’I’m not concerned with what ya wanna do right now, Serenity, so hush up. Yo’ hair is just too nappy to be out and loose like Saffy’s. Now, when I’m finished here I need ya to run to the market for me.”
As soon as she finished, I would get up and dash to the door. Right when I got there she would yell those infamous words: “covah yo’ head chile.” So I did.
Mama would cover her hair too when she went out. It was just like mine—nappy. Before she left the house she would sit in front of Great-Gran’s vanity and tightly wind the colorful fabric around her head so that no inch of her hair was showing. The only thing left showing was her mahogany skin, broad nose, and thick lips. No yard of fabric could hide who Mama was.
When I got old enough, I left that county—I left Mama and Saffronia. The city was where I wanted to be. There was a certain acceptance in the city that that ol’ county didn’t have. From the time I stepped foot off the bus I noticed the difference. There were men and women; yellow, tan, bronze, mahogany—ya name it, it was there. From soft, cascading curls to cotton like halos—it was beautiful, it was home.
I still had been wearing my head wrap ‘cuz Mama made sure it was on my head before I left that county. I don’t need to say what her last words to me were. Remembering what she said and looking around me, I decided that there was somethin’ I had to do. I raised my hands to my head and slowly unwrapped the colorful fabric. As I was doin’ that, I could hear Mama’s voice sayin’ “covah yo’head chile.” But I didn’t. I just kept unraveling the fabric until it fell to the ground.