I come from a long line of braiders, the need to gather together glistening strands, travelling via DNA and fingertips, down through the generations.

Great-grandmothers of sturdy Dutch, stolid German and delicate Danish stock, stare down from our hallway walls, variations on a theme.  Thick plaits crown the head of a Heidi grown old. Hair, swept away from the Hepburn-like cheekbones of another, disappears into what can only be a loose plait, twisted and coiled into a bun at the back.

My own mother used to plait my hair so tightly that my eyebrows would migrate to higher ground.  The exquisite torture of her fingers pulling each strand of hair taut, is as fresh in my memory as the squeals from my own daughter when my fingers followed the same path.

When I married, I plaited my step-daughter’s white-blonde hair before bed, just for the thrill of seeing those ruler-straight locks puff out into a dandelion cloud the next day.

She grew up with nimbler fingers and a fashion sensibility more up-to-date than my own and took over braiding her little sister’s hair into styles I had never thought to entertain.

Stressful times still find them together, fishboned on the couch, the fingers of one hooked into the hair of the other, finding comfort in the weaving, the touching, the connection.

I leave them to it, my fingers busy elsewhere. Pulling together the strands of my latest  tale, working out which bits to work in and when, which bits to leave hanging. Trying to weave it tight enough to hold together, loose enough to retain a softness that flatters and frames.

Sometimes my fingers stumble, clutching at the wrong strand, pulling the wrong way, creating a snarl in an otherwise smooth section. I move on, concentrating on structure and form, knowing that  I will come back later, to look at it from all angles, and redo the bits that didn’t quite work.

It’s the final moments that I love best, teasing out the tiny graceful strand that must be left hanging.

A glistening tendril that I leave as a gift. To entice. To hold on to. To carry with you, clasped in a locket, close to your heart.

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Comments
  1. This is just beautiful, Chris. Reading this inspires me to hook in and get writing. Thank you. I felt like I was there with you and your girls, hooked in and weaving away. It brought back memories of my own mother’s fingers digging into my skull, tugging and pulling to snare my blonde locks into the tight lipped mouth of the dreaded hair bobble.

    I’m going to limber up my brain and fingers and go weave some stuff of my own. Thanks for the inspiration. XOX

  2. Lynn Priestley says:

    Chris, we must have been on the same golden weave – wave length. I wrote up a blog post the other day but haven’t got around to posting. I just read through it again. Weaving threads and hair get a mention. It must be in the air! Will post it later on.

  3. What a beautiful tapestry of words to wander through on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Thanks. 🙂

  4. chrisbongers says:

    Thanks Jo, the blog offers a change of register from what I’m working on at the moment and I do love a busman’s holiday!

  5. As always, vivid and enlightening! I love good analogies – ones that make you look on things anew. I remember ‘eyebrows navigating to higher ground’ getting a mention in Dust – it was one of those lovely observations that made me smile.

    It’s funny how sometimes weaving that braid feels like the most natural thing in the world, and then other days finding each strand is tough and it just doesn’t come together the way it should. Luckily the latter is my current editing experience 🙂

  6. Oops – I meant former! (not latter)

  7. chrisbongers says:

    I know what you mean, Kath. Just when I think I’m getting the hang of it, I end up in a terrible snarl sometimes. Doesn’t matter; we learn so much from our mistakes, don’t we? Glad to hear the editing is going well (I do love a bit of polishing!) 🙂

  8. leemcgowan says:

    That is feckin lovely Chris Bongers. Feckin’ lovely.
    I was fair taken with it. The power of the unsaid and that wee bit you left me to hold onto? Aye, lovely.

    I mean braiding hair is obviously far too girly an activity for the likes of myself of course. My daughters won’t let me near their hair even if it’s to brush it whether it’s bath wet or before school. They’d fall over themselves laughing if I mentioned a braid.

    Thank you.

  9. chrisbongers says:

    Thank you, Lee, for being the only bloke who’s man enough to comment on a girly post. Your girls would be proud.
    BTW, I’m looking forward to your next post on the BWF (so I can stalk you and buy you a coffee). 😉

  10. Angela Sunde says:

    I was enchanted, Chris. Thanks.

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