Monday, May 13, 2013

The Quarter Century French Braid

Sisterly love
"Aunt Deb?"

It was K, my niece, bright and intuitive beyond her four years. A big, big girl compared to my son and her little sister who were both toddling around eating dirt and pulling things out of each others' chubby hands at the family Mothers' Day barbecue.

"Yes, love?"

"My mom said you are really good at French braids. Will you do a French braid in my hair?"

So cute, right? Except I haven't done a French braid since my sister was little older than she.

"Oh yeah," my sister piped in. "I told her you could do it since I don't know how." Thanks, little sister.

"Sure, honey. Let's go inside and do it now." I shot my sister a look. Help?

K found a yellow hair tie with a daisy on the end of it.

As we sat down, I ran my fingers through her fine, blond, little girl hair. So soft. From the back she could have been my sister, except for her coloring.

K interrupted my moment of nostalgia to remind me again, in her signature matter-of-fact tone, "My mom said you are really good at them."

With those expectations, what could go wrong?

I swallowed hard. "Yeah, well I used to be good at them, but I haven't done it in 20 years, so let's see how this one turns out, okay?"

"Twenty years?" Incredulous. "You did a French braid for my mom when you were a baby?"

I laughed. "Aunt Deb is old, K! I was still big 20 years ago." (And now that I think about it, it's been more like 25 years.)

She pondered this revelation for a moment in silence.

Then we chatted -- big sister to big sister -- about school, the trouble with little sisters and some more about braids.

To my amazement, the braid came out fine the first time. In a group vote of confidence, my entire family was shocked. K was thrilled. Later she put a sticker on my shirt to signify my "good aunt" status.

Raising girls in the age of Facebook and sexting seems daunting to me. I admit to have breathed a sigh of relief when I found out I was having a boy. Girls seem more complicated. Or at least, I know I am complicated; boys are a mystery. The devil you don't know, if you will.

But if I can rise to the challenge of French braiding a four-year-old's hair after a quarter century pause, perhaps I wouldn't be a complete failure at raising a girl, should the need arise.