Da used to say it was Mammy’s hair that ensnared him. I still imagine that first meeting: Da pinned to the No 4 bus stand; Mammy’s long auburn hair wrapped round the length of him.
Mostly her hair posed primly in a ballerina bun, but if they were off to a do, she wore it loose with a green ribbon wound through. I sat on their bed while she brushed it one hundred times; she always left me the last ten strokes. I would stretch on tippy toes up to the top, then bend right the way down to the end. The brush would glide smooth as a selkie through water.
On a Friday, when Da came home from the pub, he’d shout from the doorway, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair.” Mammy’s cheeks would turn pink and she’d say to stop with the foolishness, but she always made a big show of pulling out the hair pins and shaking her head slowly from side to side. Her hair would tumble down like that waterfall Grannie took me to in Wicklow.
“Sure everyone knows Rapunzel’s hair was golden,” I said once. Da said there was plenty of gold in Mammy’s hair if you knew where to look.
When he died we had to move in with Grannie. I miss my little bedroom with its window to the stars and Mammy never asks me to brush her hair anymore. She keeps it in a bun, tighter than the ballerina one.
Tonight she came home with dead short hair, dark wet eyes, and one hundred pounds. “He always said there was gold in my hair,” she whispered.
I wanted to say that wasn’t what Da meant, but Grannie gave me a pound for sweets and shushed me out the door.
Previously published in Mslexia, Issue 78, June/July/August 2018.