Hair Dryer sketch 1967

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My mother at age 9 in 1932.

I don’t remember my mother using a hair dryer except for a short period of time.  In the aftermath of the Detroit Riot of 1967, many people began to wear afros.  My mother had waist length wavy hair. She remembered it being very curly when she was a child and thought that when she cut it, it was going to become kinky enough to make an afro.  Much to her chagrin, it did not. Until it grew out again, she would wash it, roll it up in curlers and sit under the dryer to get some curl.

Below is a sketch I made of my mother for a drawing class in 1967. At that time, my drawings added at least 20 years to family members age. It was not on purpose. Click on images to enlarge.

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Doris Graham Cleage under the dryer.
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My mother after her haircut.

 

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Tulani’s Birth Story 1978

My sister sent me this postcard while I was waiting for my 4th daughter to be born. The midwife had given a date a month before my actual due date so there was an extra lot of waiting through the Mississippi summer of 1978 until she was finally born September 26.hair_1978hair_verso9-12-78

They had their hair bobbed awhile ago, but promised they wouldn’t cut it again until after the baby comes!  You see them now, don’t you??  Hang in there!! Love – Pearlita

The story of Tulani’s birth – written shortly after she was born in Jackson, MS September 26, 3:36AM Tuesday (If you don’t want to read the details of a birth, stop right here.)

The midwives I used when my 3rd daughter was born had moved out of town.  The two I found were not like the others. Neither had children of their own. They were scary about everything. They said the head was small and they hoped it wasn’t encephalic. To me! They wouldn’t believe that when I said conception probably occurred and placed the due date a month early, then said they didn’t want to do the delivery because I was overdue. They didn’t hook me up with a support doctor, so Jim called the doctor  I had used as back up last time and she agreed to do it, although she fussed about the midwives not having a back-up doctor.

Woke up with contractions. Sat up to see if more were coming. They were. Woke up Jim, who timed a few – coming every 5 minutes. I was real glad. Labor was starting the day before the two week deadline ran out. Had dreaded dealing with that after fearing every abnormality possibly connected with pregnancy during this 9 1/2 months. Now, Jim called someone else to see if the kids could spend the day there since the other people worked. Then it was almost 10 o’clock so he suggested we call the doctor since the contractions were so quick. I was doing deep regular breathing which I did until transition, but blowing out rather harder than breathing in. I asked if he was sure we wanted to go in so soon since we probably had a 9 hour wait ahead of us. But finally I agreed. He called the doctor who was off that night and another lady doctor fills in for her. She said we better come on since fourth babies may come pretty quick.

I threw up once or twice as we were getting ready to leave. All loaded up and left. Dropped the kids down the road. Carrie Ann came out and said she hoped it came quickly so I wouldn’t still be waiting around in the morning. I said I hoped so too. But was mentally resigned to 9 hours of labor and didn’t expert to deliver until around 9AM.

Got back on highway. Had regular contractions all the way there. Pretty strong. Not looking forward to 9 more hours of labor but glad to be in labor. Threw up or gagged once or twice. Finally got to the hospital around 2AM or a bit before. Jim took me in and upstairs – a guard pushing the wheelchair. I was still breathing the same way, sometimes rubbing my stomach, had no back labor, during final 6 weeks of pregnancy had been told the baby was in posterior position and would cause a long labor by midwife.

On the delivery floor was wheeled into a labor room by one of the nurses on duty. There were 2, a white RN and a black LPN. I asked if the birthing suite was available and it was so we went there – a combination labor and living room where delivery can take place without being moved. I took off my clothes and peed and got into bed while Jim went to check me in. The white RN (while I was peeing) asked if I was having natural birth. I said yes and she (not trying to be unkind) made some comment like “ooohhhhh honey, that’s good, if you could stand it”. I told her I’d done it 3 times and I was sure I could. Glad it wasn’t my first. Continued this while continuing to have regular and strong contractions.

Got into bed and was shaved just a partial and checked. No enema and 5>6 cm’s dilated. I couldn’t’ believe I was that far along. Jim returned. The doctor came in. A little white lady, a bit older than I (I was 32), not 40 yet. She asked if we’d had any special plans we’d discussed with Dr. Barnes. We said just no drugs and keep the baby with us. She said you had to have a special nurse present to keep the baby.

She went back out. The RN kept making dumb comments, trying to be friendly. She said she’d be ready for delivery about 3AM. Ha! I thought. Told me to tell them if I felt like pushing. I felt like pushing a bit, but kept quiet, remembering last time and how I’d pushed mildly for hours before the real push. Then she must have checked me or the doctor did and said I could push when I felt like it. Contractions were almost continuous. So on one or two more pushes I had to push and did. The waters broke and I told them. The RN started saying “sit up, you can’t push laying down!’ I was in the middle of a push, and I was saying “just wait a minute, just wait”. So after that push everyone was rushing around getting ready for the birth. It was about 3AM. They had me sit on some little plastic seat to make it easier to catch the baby.

So, I started pushing, which was a relief. The rests between contractions were longer. I said now they’d probably stop. The doctor said rests were usually longer during 2nd stage. They started seeing head. I pushed harder and finally, actually 15 or 20 minutes I felt that big head coming through and down and made noise as I pushed. There was no pain through the cervix this time, like when Ayanna had her arm up, but the head against the perineum felt like I was going to pop. I was not relaxed. I saw that hair down there on the head, but the main feeling was yikes, I’m going to pop. The doctor said let the contractions deliver and don’t push, so after a years wait (not really) a contraction came, I panted and the head came out. I pushed and it all popped out. For some reason I didn’t look in the mirror while this was going on. But I immediately looked after she came out. And she was squirming around while the doctor suctioned her nose. Didn’t look like much mucus. Was no blueness to her. She gave a short cry. They cut her cord and I picked her up and she was a regular, whole baby, without even a club foot (smile).

Then Jim went to the nursery while they weighted her and examined her. He brought her back because her temperature was stable at 99 already. She nursed a bit then they took my blood pressure and said it was low so took the baby. Jim held her awhile. Then they pushed my uterus (ouch!) and some clots came out. Not firm enough so pushing and shot of pitocin, drip of something else. They didn’t hear about nursing firming up the uterus. Any way I went to sleep and didn’t bleed to death.

Kristin with baby Tulani
Holding  baby Tulani several months later.
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Fannie Mae Turner Graham’s Bible

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My grandmother Fannie with my mother Doris, Howard and Mary V. 1931 In their Detroit East side backyard.
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Howard Alexander Turner Graham. Born Sept 7, 1928 in Detroit.
died – 3-2-1932. Scarlet Fever

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Between some pages my grandmother’s Bible are little snippets of hair.  It is a well used Bible. The covers are missing. Part of the front cover remains, tucked between pages. On this and on the back pages, corners worn away, she wrote about the births of her children and deaths of her two sons. I don’t know who the hair came from, but I would guess from her children. They were all blond as babies.

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Mershell and Doris with their father. 1925.Belle Isle, Detroit.
Mershell and Doris with their father. 1925.Belle Isle, Detroit.

“Our darling little Mershell Jr. was run over by a truck on Tuesday Nov. 1st – ’27 at 12:45 PM. on his way to school from lunch. skull crushed etc. – Neck broken – shoulder fractured- rushed to St. Joseph’s Mercy Hospital – never regained consciousness – died – same night at 2:10 – Dr Turner at his sid(e) (Fun)eral-Nov 4th … (Lavi)scount offic(iated)  sang….”

Mary Virginia born April 3rd 1920 at 5:10 AM on Saturday.  Detroit Mich at 1031 St. Jean Ave, 7 #. Dr. Ames & …
2nd baby – Mershell C. Graham, Jr. born June 10th – 1921 at 7:45 PM.  On Friday.  Detroit, Michigan. Dunbar Hospital. 8 1/2#  Dr. Turner.  Died 11/1/27 killed by auto.
3rd baby – Doris J. Graham born February – 12th – 1923. 5:10 A.M. – on Monday at Women’s Hospital Beaubien and For(est) Detroit, Michigan  7#

nannybirths4th baby – Howard Alexander G(raham) born at Woman’s Hospi(tal) Sept 7th ’28 at 5 P.M.  7#10 oz. Dr. Turner

__________________

Our baby Howard was taken ill Nov. 17th 1931 – Dr. turner came + pronounced it Diabetes … cured — Jan 1932… On Feb 20- 1932, he developed Scarlet Fever – was sent to Herman Kiefer Hospital an(d) on acct of his condition died March 4th 1932 and was buried Sat. March 5…Private funeral at Memorial Park Cemetery 3 1/2 years old born 9/7/…

—–#—–

Our loss is truest g… God fills the pla… by our 2 ba…

Memories of Hair

I was born with a head full of black hair that could be pulled up into a little top pony tail. It soon fell out leaving me practically bald with a bit of blond hair. It slowly grew in sandy and kinky like my father’s and grandfather’s rather than wavy/straight like my mother’s and grandmother’s.

Hair_3_blogFrom a letter written to her in-laws by my mother, written March 18, 1947.

Kris (with her 2 teeth) says any time for you all laughing at her bald head – I fear it’ll be covered all too soon with first one thing and then another.

Doris

When Pearl and I were little, my mother didn’t wash our hair often. Once every two weeks? Once a month? Not very often. She used Breck shampoo, put a little olive oil in the sink full of warm water and poured it over for the final rinse. After and between washings she’d part our hair and put “Three Flowers” grease on our scalp. I remember that sometimes, when I was in elementary school, she would roll it up on kleenix curlers and let me wear it “down” for one day after she washed it. I enjoyed the change from braids but it wasn’t really “down”.

Aunt Abbie, my maternal great grandmother’s sister, lived with my grandparents. She assured my mother that is was all right that Pearl and I didn’t have “good” hair because we had blue eyes.  She assured my Aunt Mary V. it was okay her daughter’s didn’t have light hair or eyes because they had “good” hair. The sister’s shook their heads about it.

When I was in sixth grade, a classmate asked me during art class if I had ever had my hair straightened. I had not. She hadn’t either. Ironically, that afternoon after school, my sister and I went to the beauty shop on 12th street near Calvert recommended by Aunt Mary V. and had our hair straightened for the first time. We got pony tails in back and a pony tail down the side. Going to the beauty shop always gave me a headache. I remember listening to my beautician talking to the other women about how hot it was and how her husband was going to have to sleep on the couch because it was too hot to be all up in the bed with another hot, sweaty body.

Eventually I stopped going to the beauty shop, although my sister continued for years. There were the beauty shop headaches and I started taking swimming in junior high and high school. Those horrible bathing caps didn’t keep out the water and my hair soon took back it’s natural form.

My mother still straightened my hair for special occasions. She heated the comb on the stove and there were the inevitable burnings of the ear. Other times I wore my hair in what a classmate described as a “shredded wheat biscuit”.  Sometimes I borrowed some of my father’s Murray’s Pomade and after brushing the stiff, yellowish stuff in, it did lay down and had small waves.

During the summers when I was about nine to thirteen, I spent a week at the mostly white Camp Talahi.  Some of the girl campers would ask me “Why is your hair like that?”.  At first I would say because that’s the way it grows.  Eventually I just responded with “Why is your hair like that?”  They would look puzzled.

My last semester of high school I didn’t take swimming and discovered that if I rolled my hair up on those hard, pink curlers I could wear it in a sort of curly side wave on the side and pull the back into a barrette for a low pony tail. Sometimes I even wore it down, somewhat like those hairdos in elementary school.  Once Pearl and I braided it all up into lots and lots of little braids, which reminded us of the paintings in Egyptian tombs. We thought it was great, and I would have been way ahead of the times, however my father hated it and I never wore it like that anywhere.

While visiting Pearl at Howard for Thanksgiving of 1966, I let one of her roommates straighten my hair. My mother complimented me and thought it looked lovely. When I went down to Wayne, I met Jim in the Montieth Center. He was aghast that I had straightened my hair. I went into the restroom and washed it out in the sink and that was the last time I straightened my hair. I was 20.

At one point in our lives, Pearl and I complained to each other that we had inherited our father’s kinky hair instead of our mother’s wavy hair. We reasoned that boys were supposed to get their mother’s hair so if he had gotten his mother’s wavy hair, we would have inherited that because girls (in our theory) inherited their father’s hair. Later, when natural hair came in we were so glad we had the hair we did. We didn’t have to do anything but wash and wear to have afros.

The next summer, 1967, we had the Detroit riot/rebellion. My cousins, Janis and Greta, came to visit us for the first time from Athens, TN.  They were the same age as Pearl and I. Somehow, it came up that I wanted to cut my hair for an afro. Greta volunteered to do it for me and she did. It was great! I loved it. The only scary part was going to my Grandmother Cleages for the first time afterwards. We were afraid she might say something negative or even mention it during mealtime prayers, but she didn’t. I was one of the first to wear an afro on Wayne’s campus.  That fall, in Miriam’s Jeffries project student apartment, I cut several people’s hair for their first afros. I remember Kathy Gamble was sad to see her long hair fall on the floor.  I cut Martha Prescod’s and can’t remember who else. I hadn’t cut anybody’s hair before, although I cut my own when it got too long.

I wore an afro until about 1988 when I decided to let my hair grow out and see what happened. I let it grow until 2004 or so when I cut it all off again and have kept it cut ever since.