Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We Remain

            “We have a framed hair wreath in one of the other bedrooms upstairs.” 
            These words were spoken to my friend Ellen and me by the innkeeper of a lovely Bed and Breakfast in Jenks, Oklahoma just this past March. 
            “We have a framed hair wreath in one of the other bedrooms upstairs.”
            If you’re saying to yourself, “What the heck is a hair wreath?” you’re not alone.  I was thinking that very question when the nice innkeeper uttered that particular phrase.  What the heck is a hair wreath? 
            Before I give you an answer, let me tell you a little bit about my friend Ellen.   
Ellen and me with my mouth open.  Big surprise!
             Ellen and I have been friends for approximately 21 years now.  We met in our Hebrew summer language course our first year of seminary in Richmond, Virginia.  Summer language school is a seven week intensive course in either Hebrew or Greek.  Both languages are required for potential Presbyterian pastors.  And at my seminary the seven week course was like boot camp for ministers. 
            You know how when you’re thrown in with a group of strangers in an intense setting such as a trip or a course, and you bond really fast, thinking that those bonds will last forever but once the course is done they don’t?  I felt that way after those seven weeks.  Yet I’ve lost touch with just about everybody else from that first summer when I ate, drank and slept Hebrew, but not with Ellen.  We remain.
            Our friendship has seen marriages, children, moves, job successes, job failures, life successes, life failures, disappointments, heartaches and celebrations.  We’ve lived nearby and we’ve lived far away, but still we remain.
            One of the ways Ellen and I keep our friendship going is by planning girls’ weekends.  They don’t happen as often as we like, but whenever possible we seek out a place approximately halfway between our respective domiciles and hang out for a couple of nights at a B and B.  Basically, give El and me a hearty breakfast, antiques and an innkeeper who knows the best places to shop and we’re in, people! 
            So back to where we began – the hair wreath.  A hair wreath is what it sounds like.  It is a wreath made up of braided hair from many women in a family.  Women would often keep a small porcelain container on their dressers.  It was covered but the cover had a hole in the middle.  As women would brush their hair, they would place the loose hair into the container to be saved.  Ellen remembered her grandmother having just such a thing sitting on her nightstand when Ellen was growing up.  I don’t know if anyone in my family tree did this, but I found it fascinating (and, if I’m honest, a little weird) that this was such a prevalent practice.  But weird or not, the hair wreath was beautiful.  
The infamous hair wreath
          As we looked more closely you could see the different shades of hair woven together.  There were various hues of brunette, blonde and gray.  I closed my eyes and imagined the different generations of women all collecting their hair, and the time and love that went into braiding that hair into this kind of creation.  It was both art and memorial.  It was a testament to each woman – unique, individual, beautiful, yet all woven into a larger whole. 
            Ellen and I aren’t in the same family.  We don’t share DNA.  Our hair color does not match.  Our temperaments are different.  She is calm, cool and collected, and I’m … not.  But still as our friendship grows and changes and weathers and deepens, we’re weaving our memories together as surely as those women wove their hair. 
We remain.
Ellen, the author, and Ellen's lovely daughter, Shelby

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