I remember my junior high school graduation very well and not for the pride I felt but rather for the cluster fuck of events that preceeded and followed it.
My mother had a lot of self hate…I mean A LOT she didn’t like to acknowledge any of her African American roots. She prefered to identify as Dominican, however if she knew her history Dominicans are of African decendant too but you couldn’t tell her that. She would relax my hair constantly to keep it straight and tell me not to tell anyone it was relaxed.
Well about two or three months before graduation she saw an infomercial for this hair product called Rio if you look it up there was a big lawsuit and well yeah the company is no longer in business. This product was supposed to take all the curl out of hair like mine…so she bought it mixed it according to directions and slapped it in my hair. She figured it would be better than the constant relaxing she was doing since this promised less damge as it was supposed to be all natural, so natural you could eat it! so therefore she would be able to keep up the lie that my hair grew out of my head straight without questions about the obvious chemical damage.
When she rinsed this awful crap out of my head I knew I was headed for disaster. My hair felt like it was sticking to itself in clumps. She washed, conditioned and blow dried my hair cursing the whole time. For the next few weeks my hair broke off until I had a pixie type hair style. I didn’t go to school for a few days while I tried to figure out the best way to handle this catastrophe as it got worse and worse, when I did go back to school I wore hats. It getting to a point that I realized that I was going to have more graduation cap than hair. I was mortified. I went to the dollar store and bought clips and ribbons trying to trying to make the best of this hair that not only was short and damaged but I couldn’t get it to do anything but lay on my head as if i had gelled it down. When graduation came I did have more hair than cap. I tried to act unphased although I was so embarrassed.
On graduation day I left my things with my parents since we weren’t supposed to have anything on stage with us and I walked across the stage, took my diploma and smiled big. I looked into the crowd and saw the seats that my parents had been occupying were now empty and I turned to the door just in time to watch them step out. No biggie they probably went for a cigarette they wouldn’t leave.
Graduation over and my friends are all asking me to go to dinner with them and their families, I politely decline and say I’m going to find my parents…this is before cellphones so I literally walk my school grounds looking for them, they had everything including my bus pass, did they really leave!? We lived 4 miles away! I stood in front of my school for an hour before giving in. I had no money and no bus pass so I started walking home. I was so angry why would they leave? They couldnt wait and we all gonhome together? Why didn’t I just go with friends and get food…but then again i had no money. As I walked people were congratulating me on my graduation, and as I was so used to doing I put on a big fake smile said thank you and kept moving.
I made it a whole two miles before my feet were aching and I begged a bus driver to let me go the rest of the way, he gave me a hard time so I started to get off the bus when someone offered to pay my fare. I thanked them and sat quietly with my head down the whole trip. I just couldn’t believe they left me and took all of my things.
When I got home my mother was there alone she was already drunk and probably high, I asked where my father was she just said “the city”. I went in my room picked out a book lay on my bed and read. I was about 3/4 of the way through the book when I realized my father still wasnt home, he always came home, not like my mom. I was so worried but my mother didn’t seem to be.
We found out the next day he had been arrested for possession with intent to sell. He would be lucky. No jail time, probation and and counseling. This would be the beginning of him getting clean. Thank God.